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JUDGE LEANDER STILLWELL 
December, 1909. 



THE STORY 

OF 

F A COMMON SOLDIER 

OF 

ARMY LIFE IN THE CIVIL WAR 

1861-1865 



SECOND EDITION 



By 

LEANDER STILLWELL 

> 

Late of Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry 



Franklin Hudson Publishing Coi 
1920 






Copyright 1920 by 
LEANDER STILLWELL 



DEDICATED TO MY YOUNGEST SON, 

JEREMIAH E. STILLWELL. 
DEAR JERRY: 

You have earnestly asked me to write something in the nature of an 
extended account of my career as a soldier in the Union army during the 
Civil War. It will be a rather strenuous undertaking for a man of my 
age. I shall be seventy-three years old in about three months, and th e 
truth is, I am now becoming somewhat indolent, and averse to labor of 
any kind, either mental or physical. But I have concluded to comply 
with your request, and undertake the work. Whether I shall complete 
it, or not, I cannot now positively say, but I will do the best I can. And 
I will also say, for whatever you may think it worth, that YOU are the 
only person, now living, whose request could induce me to undertake 
the sketch that you desire. 

L. STILLWELL. 

Erie, Kansas, 
July 3, 1916. 



M 196189 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER I. The Beginning of the War. Life at Camp Carrollton, 
January and February, 1862 9 

CHAPTER II. Benton Barracks. St. Louis, Maich, 1862 22 

CHAPTER III. Off for the Seat of War. The Battle of Sbiloh. 
March and April, 1862 30 

CHAPTER IV. Seme Incidents of the Battle of Shiloh 54 

CHAPTER V. The Siege of Corinth. In Camp at Owl Creek. April 

and May, 1862 69 

CHAPTER VI. Bethel. Jackson. June and July, 1862 78 

CHAPTER VII. Bolivar. July. August, and September, 1862 90 

CHAPTER VIII. Bolivar. The Movement to the Vicinity of luka, 
Mississippi. September-December, 1862 98 

CHAPTER IX. The Affair at Salem Cemetery. Jackson, Cairoll Sta 
tion. December, 1862, January, 1863. Bolivar. February- 
May, 1863 114 

CHAPTER X. The Siege of Vicksbuig. June and July, 1863 133 

CHAPTER XI. Helena, Arkansas. Life in a Hospital. August, 1863.149 
CHAPTER XII. DevalPs Bluff. Little Rock. August-October, 1863. 157 

CHAPTER XIIL Little Rock, October, 1863. Granted a Furlough. 
Chaplain B. B. Hamilton. The Journey on Furlough from Little 
Rock to Jersey Countv, Illinois. Return to Regiment, Novem 
ber, 1863 165 

CHAPTER XIV. Little Rock. Winter of 1863-4. Re-enlist for Three 
Years More 182 

CHAPTER XV. Little Rock. Expeditions to Augusta andJSpring- 
field. March, April, and May, 1864 190 

CHAPTER XVI. Devall s Bluff; The Clarendon Expedition. June 
and July, 1864 203 

CHAPTER XVII. Devall s Bluff Grand Reviews^and Inspections. 
Surgeon J. P. Anthony. Private Press Allender. June and 
July, 1864 ..209 



CONTENTS Continued. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XVIII. The Regiment Goes Home on Veteran Furbu^h. 
Interview with General W. T. Sherman After the War. A Short 
Tour of Soldieiing at Chester, Illinois. August, September, and 
October, 1864 216 

CHAPTER XIX. Expedition to North Missouri. -Back in Tennessee 
Once More. Muifreesboro. October and November, 1861 225 

CHAPTER XX. The Affair at Overall s Creek. Murfreesb^ro. De 
cember, 1864 233 

CHAPTER XXI. The Battle of Wilkinson s Pike. December 7, 1854.238 

CHAPTER XXII. The Fight on the Railroad Near Mui f reesboro, D e- 
cember 15, 1864 247 

CHAPTER XXIIL Murfreesboro. Winter of 1864-1865. Franklin . 
Spring and Summer of 1865 258 

CHAPTER XXIV. The Soldier s Pay; Rations; Allusions to Some of 
the Useful Lessons Learned by Service in the Aimy in Time of 
War; Courage in Battle 265 

CHAPTER XXV. Franklin, Summer of 1865. Mustered Out, Septem- 
bei 8, 1865. Receive Final Payment at Springfield, Illinois, Sep 
tember 27, 1865. The Regiment "Breaks Ranks" Forever 275 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



PREFACE. 



When I began writing these reminiscences it did not occur to 
me that anything in the nature of a preface was necessary. It was 
thought that the dedication to my son Jerry contained sufficient ex 
planation. But I have now finished writing these recollections, and 
in view of all that they set forth, I believe that a few brief prefa 
tory remarks may now be appropriate. In the first place it will be 
said that when I began the work it was only to gratify my son, and 
without any thought or expectation that it would ever be published. 
I don t know yet that such will be done, but it may happen. The 
thought occurred to me after I had written some part of it, and it 
is possible that about at that point some change began to take place 
in the style, and phraseology, and which perhaps may be observed. 
So much for that. Next I will say that all statements of fact here 
in made, based upon my own knowledge, can be relied on as abso 
lutely true. My mother most carefully preserved the letters I wrote 
home froim the army to her and to my father. She died on February 
6, 1894, and thereafter my father (who survived her only about 
three years) gave back to me these old letters. In writing to my 
parents I wrote, as a rule, a letter every week when the opportunity 
was afforded, and now in this undertaking with these letters 
before me it was easy to follow the regiment every mile of its way 
from Camp Carrollton in January, 1862, to Camp Butler, in Sep 
tember, 1865. Furthermore, on June 1, 1863, at Memphis, Tennes 
see, as we passed through there on our way to join Grant s army at 
Vicksburg, I bought a little blank book about four inches long, 
three inches wide, and half an inch thick. From that time until we 
were mustered out, I kept a sort of very brief diary in this little 
book, and have it yet. The old letters and this book have been in 
valuable to me in writing my recollections, and having been written 



8 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

at or near the time of the happening of the events they mention, 
can be relied on as accurate and truthful. 

Though I attained the rank of a commissioned officer while in 
the service, yet that did not occur until near the end of my time, 
and after the war was over. So it is submitted that the title given 
these sketches, The Story of a Common Soldier," is warranted 
by the facts. 

If this manuscript should ever be published, it will go to the 
world without any apology or commendation from me whatever. It 
is, though, only fair to say that I make no pretensions to being a 
"literary" man. This is simply the story of a common soldier who 
served in the army during the great war, and who faithfully tried 
to do his duty. 

L. STILLWELL. 

December 30, 1916. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR. LIFE AT CAMP CARROLL- 
TON, JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1862. 

I was born September 16, 1843, on a farm, in Otter Creek pre 
cinct, Jersey County, Illinois. I was living with my parents, in the 
little old log house where I was born, when the Civil war began. 
The Confederates fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and thus 
commenced the war. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a 
call for 75,000 men, to aid in putting down the existing rebellion. 
Illinois promptly furnished her quota, and in addition, thousands 
of men were turned away, for the reason that the complement of 
the State was complete, and there was no room for them. The sol 
diers under this call were mustered in for three months service 
only, for the government then seemed to be of the opinion that the 
troubles would be over by the end of that time. But on May 3, 
1861, Mr. Lincoln issued another call for volunteers, the number 
specified being a little over 42,000, and their term of service was 
fixed at three years, unless sooner discharged. The same call pro 
vided for a substantial increase in the regular army and navy. I 
did not enlist under either of these calls. As above stated, the be 
lief then was almost universal throughout the North that the 
"war" would amount to nothing much but a summer frolic, and 
would be over by the 4th of July. We had the utmost confidence 
that Richmond would be taken by that time, and that Jeff Davis 
and his cabinet would be prisoners, or fugitives. But the battle of 
Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861, gave the loyal people of the Na 
tion a terrible awakening. The result of this battle was a crushing 
disappointment and a bitter mortification to all the friends of the 
Union. They realized then that a long and bloody struggle was 
before them. But Bull Run was probably all for the best. Had it 
been a Union victory, and the Rebellion then been crushed, negro 



10 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

slavery would have been retained, and the "irrepressible conflict" 
would have been fought out likely in your time, with doubtless ten 
fold the loss of life and limb that ensued in the war of the sixties. 

The day after the battle of Bull Run Congress passed a law au 
thorizing Mr. Lincoln to call for five hundred thousand three-years 
volunteers. It was under this law, supplemented by authority 
from the Secretary of War, that the regiment was organized in 
which I subsequently enlisted. I w r as then only a boy, but some 
how I felt that the war was going to be a long one, and that it was 
the duty of every young fellow of the requisite physical ability to 
"go for a soldier," and help save the Nation. I had some talk with 
my father on the subject. He was a strong Union man, and in 
syimpathy with my feelings, but I could see that naturally he 
dreaded the idea of his boy going to the war, with the result that 
maybe he would be killed, or come home a cripple for life. But I 
gave him to understand that when they began organizing a regi 
ment in our vicinity, and which would contain a fair proportion of 
my neighbor boys and acquaintances, I intended then to volunteer. 
It was simply intolerable to think that I could stay at home, among 
the girls, and be pointed at by the soldier boys aa a stay-at-home 
coward. 

The work of organizing and recruiting for a regiment in our 
corner of the State began early in the autumn of 1861. The various 
counties in that immediate locality were overwhelmingly Demo 
cratic ir> politics, and many of the people were strong "Southern 
sympathizers," as they were then called, and who later developed 
into virulent Copperheads and Knights of the Golden Circle. Prob 
ably 90 per cent of the inhabitants of Greene, Jersey, Scott, Morgan, 
and adjoining counties came from the Southern States, or were the 
direct descendants of people from that part of the country. Ken- 
tuckians, Tennesseeans, and North and South Carolinians were es 
pecially numerous. But it is only fair and the truth to say that 
many of the most prominent and dangerous of this Copperhead 
element were men from remote Eastern States. What caused these 
persons to pursue this shameful course I do not know. President 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 11 

Lincoln was personally well aware of these political conditions in 
our locality, as his old home, at Springfield, the State Capital, was 
not far away, and he doubtless knew every man of reasonable prom 
inence in our entire Congressional District. He wanted soldiers, re 
gardless of politics, but it was necessary, in that locality, to hold 
out some special inducements to his constituents of the Democratic 
faith. So, for that reason, (with others,) as was well understood 
at the time, Gen. Jacob Fry of Greene County, a Kentuckian by 
birth and a life-long Democrat, was selected as the one to recruit 
and organize, and to be the colonel of the regiment to be raised 
from the counties above named and their vicinity. Aside from 
the political consideration, this selection of Gen. Fry was regarded 
at the time as a very good and appropriate one. He was an old- 
timer, having been a resident of Greene county from his boyhood, 
had been sheriff of the county, and had held other responsible of 
fices. And, what was considered still more important, he had serv 
ed with credit and distinction in the "Black Hawk War" in 1831-2, 
where he held the rank of Colonel. Soon after the close of this In 
dian disturbance, he was made Brigadier-General, and subsequent 
ly Major-General, of the Illinois militia. He was a grand old man, 
of temperate habits, strict integrity, and unflinching bravery. But 
he was sixty-two years old, and that proved to be a handicap that 
eventually resulted in his resignation, as will appear later. 

The Fair Grounds, about half a mile east of Carrollton, thjG 
county seat of Greene County, were designated as the "Camp of In 
struction" for Col. Fry s regiment. Recruiting for it began 
about the last of September, but it proceeded very slowly. Several 
of the boys from my neighborhood had previously enlisted in other 
regiments, and it looked as if the "wiry edge" of volunteering had 
somewhat worn off. Co. F of the 14th Illinois Infantry had been 
raised almost entirely in Jersey county, and several of my old 
schoolmates were in that company. And there were little squads 
that had joined other regiments. The 22nd and the 27th Illinois 
Infantry and the 9th Missouri Infantry, (afterwards designated as 
the 59th Illinois Infantry,) each had some men and boys from our 
part of the county. 



12 1HE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

Up in the northwest corner of Jersey County and close to the 
Greene county line lived an old farmer by the name of John H. Red 
dish. He, too, had served in the Black Hawk War, and under the 
command of Col. Fry. The highest position he attained in that 
scrap, as shown by the records, was that of corporal, but, regard 
less of his rank, it is entirely safe to say that he was a fighter. As 
soon as it was announced that Col. Fry was raising a regiment, and 
was to be its colonel, Uncle John Reddish forthwith took the field 
to recruit a company for this organization. The fact that he had 
been a Black Hawk war soldier gave him immense prestige, and 
settled in his favor the question of his military qualifications with 
out further evidence. The truth is that at that time almost any 
man of good repute and fair intelligence, who had seen service in 
this Black Hawk racket, or the Mexican war, was regarded as fit 
and desirable for a commissioned officer, or, at the least, pretty high 
up in the non-commissioned line. But, as it afterwards turned out, 
that was an erroneous notion. There were exceptions, of course, 
but in any event, as regards the Black Hawk episode, service during 
it was of no practical benefit whatever to a man who became there 
by an officer in the Civil war. Capt. Reddish was kind hearted, 
and as brave an old fellow as a reckless and indiscriminating bull 
dog, but, aside from his personal courage, he had no military quali 
ties whatever, and failed to acquire any during his entire service. 
He never could learn the drill, except the most simple company 
movements. He was also very illiterate, and could barely write his 
name. And his commands on drill were generally laughable. For 
instance, in giving the command of right or left wheel, he would 
supplement it by saying, "Swing around, boys, just like a gate." 
Such directions would mortify us exceedingly, and caused the men 
of the other companies to laugh at and twit us about our Captain. 
He would have made a first-class duty sergeant, and that was as 
high a rank as he was capable of properly filling. But he was a 
good old man, and furiously patriotic. He loved a fighter and abom 
inated a coward, and, on the whole, his men couldn t help but like 
him. Capt. Reddish selected for his first, or orderly sergeant, as 













(Father of Leander Still well.) 



THE STORY FO A COMMON SOLDIER. 13 

the position was generally designated, Enoch W. Wallace, of my 
neighborhood. Enoch, as we usually called him, was an old 
acquaintance and intimate friend of my parents, and I too had 
known him from the time I was quite a little boy. Take him all in 
all, he was just one of the best men I ever knew. He had seen serv 
ice as a Mexican war soldier, but owing to his youth, being only 
about sixteen when that war began, 1 think he did not get in till 
towards the last, and hence his service was short. But he learned 
something about company drill. When I heard that Wallace was 
to be the first sergeant of Capt. Reddish s company, I made up my 
mind, right then, that I would enlist in that company, and told my 
father I was going to do so. He listened in silence, with his eyes 
fixed on the ground. Finally he said, "Well, Leander, if you think 
it s your duty to go, I shall make no objection. But you re the only 
boy I now have at home big enough to work, so I wish you d put it 
off until we get the wheat sowed, and the corn gathered. Then, if 
you re still of the same mind, it ll be all right." I felt satisfied that 
the regiment would not leave for the front until after we had done 
that work, so I at once consented to my father s request. 

An incident happened about this time that greatly stimulated 
my desire to get into the army. Harvey Edsall, a neighbor boy 
some four or five years my senior, had enlisted that summer in the 
22nd Illinois Infantry. Harvey, with his regiment, was in the bat 
tle of Belmont on November 7, 1861, and in the action received a 
rather severe gun shot wound in the calf of one of his legs. As 
soon as he was able to stand the travel, he was sent home on fur 
lough, and I met him soon after his arrival at his father s house, 
where the people had gathered to listen to "the preaching of the 
word" by Elder Harrison Rowden. (We had no regular church 
building in our immediate neighborhood then, and religious services 
were held at private houses.) Harvey was rapidly recovering, but 
his wounded leg was still swathed in bandages, and he walked on 
crutches. I well remember how we boys stood around and looked 
at him with wide-eyed admiration. And he had to tell us the story 
of the fight, and all about the circumstances connected with the 



14 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

shot he got in his leg, until he probably was sick and tired of the 
subject. But, for my part, I thought Harvey s story was just 
grand, and it somehow impressed me with the idea that the only 
life worth living was that of a soldier in time of war. The idea of 
staying at home and turning over senseless clods on the farm with 
the cannon thundering so close at hand that the old men said that 
when the wind was from the south they sometimes smelled the 
powder! was simply intolerable. 

Remember all the time, as you read these recollections of an 
old man, that I am trying to give you merely some conception of the 
thoughts, feelings, hopes, and ambitions of one who, at the time 
of which I am now speaking, was only an eighteen year old boy. 

In the meantime, I went on helping my father do the fall work 
on the farm. In due time the wheat was sowed, the corn gathered, 
and a huge stack of firewood for winter cut and brought in, and 
piled near the dwelling-house. By this time the holiday season was 
approaching, which I wanted to spend at home, thinking, maybe, 
it might be the last. And the regiment was doing nothing but re 
cruit, and drill at Camp Carrollton, and, as I looked at it, there was 
no special need to hurry. But Christmas and New Year s Day soon 
came, and went, and one evening I told my parents I intended to 
go to Carrollton the next day, and "maybe" would come back a 
soldier. Early next morning, which was Monday, January 6, 1862, 
I saddled and bridled Bill, the little black mule, and struck out. 
Carrollton was about twenty miles from our home, almost due 
north, and the road ran mainly through big woods, with an occa 
sional farm on either side of the road. It is likely those woods are 
all gone now. I reached the camp about the middle of the after 
noon, went to the quarters of Reddish s company, found Enoch 
Wallace, and told him I had come to enlist. He took me to Capt. 
Reddish, gave me a short introduction to him, and told him my 
business. The old Captain gave me a hearty greeting, and was. so 
plain, kind and natural in his manner and talk, that I took a liking 
to him at once. He told me that the first step necessary was to be 
examined by the regimental surgeon as to my physical fitness, so 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 15 

we at once went to the surgeon s tent. I had previously heard all 
sorts of stories as to the thoroughness of this examination, that 
sometimes the prospective recruits had to strip, stark naked, and 
jump about, in order to show that their limbs were perfect. But I 
was agreeably disappointed in that regard. The surgeon, at that 
time, was a fat, jolly old doctor by the name of Leonidas Clemmons. 
I was about scared to death when the Captain presented me to him, 
and requested him to examine me. I reckon the good old doctor 
saw I was frightened, and he began laughing heartily and saying 
some kind things about my general appearance. He requested me 
to stand up straight, then gave me two or three little sort of "love 
taps" on the chest, turned me round, ran his hands over my shoul 
ders, back, and limbs, laughing and talking all the time, then 
whirled me to the front, and rendered judgment on me as follows: 
"Ah, Capt. Reddish ! I only wish you had a hundred such fine boys 
as this one! He s all right, and good for the service." I drew a 
long breath, and felt much relieved. Then we went to the adju 
tant s tent, there I signed something, and was duly sworn in. Then 
to the quartermaster s tent, where I drew my clothing. I got be 
hind, a big bale of stuff, took off my citizen s apparel and put on 
my soldier clothes then and there, and didn t I feel proud! The 
clothing outfit consisted of a pair of light-blue pantaloons, similar 
colored overcoat with a cape to it, dark blue jacket, heavy shoes and 
woolen socks, an ugly, abominable cocky little cap patterned after 
the then French army style, gray woolen shirt, and other ordinary 
under-clothing. Was also given a knapsack, but I think I didn t 
get a haversack and canteen until later. Right here I will say that 
the regimental records give the date of my enlistment as the 7th 
of January, which is wrong. The date was the 6th. It was a day 
I did not forget, and never shall. How the authorities happened to 
get the date wrong I do not know, but it is a matter of only one 
day, and never was of any importance. 

It was the custom then in the regiment to give each recruit 
when he enlisted a two-days furlough, but I deferred asking for 
mine until the next morning. I spent that afternoon in the camp, 



16 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and the night at the quarters of my company. As already stated, 
the camp was on the county Fair Grounds. They contained forty 
acres, and were thickly studded with big native trees, mainly white 
and black oak and shag-bark hickory. The grounds were sur 
rounded by an inclosure seven or eight feet high, consisting of 
thick, native timber planks with the lower ends driven in the 
ground, and the upper parts firmly nailed to cross-wise stringers. 
There was only one opening, which was at the main gate about the 
center of the north side of the grounds. A line of guards was 
maintained at the gate and all round the inside of the inclosure, 
with the beat close to the fence, for the purpose of keeping the men 
in camp. No enlisted man could go out except on a pass signed by 
his captain, and approved by the colonel. The drilling of the men 
was conducted principally inside the grounds, but on skirmish drill 
we went outside, in order to have room enough. The quarters or 
barracks of the men were, for each company, a rather long, low 
structure, crudely built of native lumber and covered with clap 
boards and a top dressing of straw, containing two rows of bunks, 
one above and one below. These shacks looked like a Kansas stable 
of early days, but they were abodes of comfort and luxury com 
pared to what we frequently had later. 

Next morning, after an early breakfast, I pulled out for home, 
with my two-days furlough in my pocket. I was accompanied by 
John Jobson, one of Reddish s company, and who had enlisted about 
a month previous. He had obtained a short furlough for some 
purpose or other, and had hired a horse on which to make the trip. 
Prior to his enlistment he had been working as a farm hand for 
Sam Dougherty, one of our nearest neighbors, and I had become 
well acquainted with him. He was about twenty-five years old, 
of English birth, a fine, sensible young fellow, and made a good 
soldier. I w r ell remember our high spirits on this journey home. 
We were young, glowing with health and overflowing with live 
liness and animation. There was a heavy snow on the ground, but 
the sky was clear, and the air was keen and bracing. Occasionally, 
when we would strike a stretch of level road, we would loose all the 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 17 

buttons of our overcoats save the top one, put the gad to our steeds, 
and waving our caps, with our long coat tails streaming in the 
wind, would yell like Comanches, and "let on" that we were mak 
ing a cavalry charge. I have no doubt that we believed we pre 
sented a most terror-striking appearance. 

Happy is man that to him the future is a sealed book. In the 
summer of 1863, while we were stationed near Vicksburg, Jobson 
was taken seriously ill, and was put on a transport to be taken to a 
general hospital at Mound City, Illinois. He died en route, on the 
boat, and was hastily buried in a sand bar at the mouth of White 
River. The changing currents of the mighty Mississippi have 
long since swallowed up that sand bar, and with it all that may 
have been left of the mortal remains of poor Jobson. 

I reached home sometime in the afternoon, relieved Bill of his 
equipments, put him in the stable, and fed him. No one was stir 
ring about outside, and I walked into the house unannounced. My 
mother was seated in an old rocking-chair, engaged in sewing. 
She looked up, saw me in the uniform of a soldier, and she knew 
what that meant. Her work dropped in her lap, she covered her 
face with her hands, and the tears gushed through her fingers and 
she trembled in her chair with the intensity of her emotions. 
There was no sobbing, or other vocal manifestation of feeling, but 
her silence made her grief seem all the more impressive. I was 
distressed, and didn t know what to say, so I said nothing, and 
walked out into the kitchen, thence back to the barn. There I met 
father, who had come in from some out-door work. He looked at 
me gravely, but with an impassive countenance, and merely re 
marked, "Well, I reckon you ve done right." 

Next morning everybody seemed more cheerful, and I had much 
to say at breakfast about things at Camp Carrollton. 

On the expiration of my furlough I promptly reported at the 
camp and entered on my duties as a soldier. The absorbing duty 
was the drill, and that was persistent, and consumed the most of 
the time. I knew nothing about it when I enlisted, and had never 
seen any except on the previous Monday afternoon. The system 



18 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

we then had was Hardee s Infantry Tactics. It was simple, and 
easily learned. The main things required were promptness, care, 
and close attention. All day long, somewhere in the camp, could 
be heard the voice of some officer, calling, "Left! left! left, right, 
left!" to his squad or company, to guide them in the cadence of 
the step. We were drilled at Carrollton in the "school of the sol 
dier," "school of the company," and skirmish drill, with dress pa 
rade at sunset. We had no muskets, and did not receive them until 
we went to Benton Barracks, at St. Louis. I do not remember of 
our having any battalion drill at Camp Carrollton. The big trees 
in the fair grounds were probably too thick and numerous to per 
mit that. Our fare consisted of light bread, coffee, fresh meat at 
some meals, and salt meat at others, Yankee beans, rice, onions, and 
Irish and sweet potatoes, with stewed dried apples occasionally for 
supper. The salt meat, as a rule, was pickled pork and fat side 
meat, which latter "table comfort" the boys called "sow^belly." 
We got well acquainted with that before the war was over. On the 
grub question I will say now that the great "stand-bys" of the 
Union soldiers during the war, at least those of the western armies, 
were coffee, sow-belly, Yankee beans, ajid hard-tack. It took us, of 
course, some time to learn how to cook things properly, especially 
the beans, but after we had learned how, we never went back on 
the above named old friends. But the death of many a poor boy, 
especially during our first two or three months in the field, is 
chargeable to the bad cooking of his food. 

At Carrollton the j oiliest time of the day was from the close of 
dress parade until taps sounded "Lights out." There was then a 
good deal of what you might call "prairie dogging," that is, the 
boys would run around and visit at the quarters of other companies. 
And Oh, how they would sing! All sorts of patriotic songs were 
in vogue then, and what was lacking in tone we made up in volume. 
The battle of Mill Springs, in Kentucky, was fought on January 
19, 1862, resulting in a Union victory. A Confederate general, 
Felix K. Zollicoffer, was killed in the action. He had been a mem 
ber of Congress from Tennessee, and was a man of prominence in 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 19 

the South. A song soon appeared in commemoration of this battle. 
It was called "The Happy Land of Canaan," and I now remember 
only one stanza, which is as follows : 
"Old Zolly s gone, 
And Secesh will have to mourn, 
For they thought he would do to depend on ; 
But he made his last stand 
On the rolling Cumberland, 
And was sent to the happy land of Canaan." 
There was a ringing, rolling chorus to each verse, of course, 
and which was not at all germane to the text, and, moreover, as 
the newspapers sometimes say, is "not adapted for publication,"- 
so it will be omitted. Well, I can now shut my eyes and lean back 
in my chair and let my memory revert to that far away time, and 
it just seems to me that I can see and hear Nelse Hegans, of Co. C, 
singing that song at night in our quarters at old Camp Carrollton. 
He was a big, strong six-footer, about twenty-one years of age, 
with a deep bass voice that sounded when singing like the roll of 
distant thunder. And he was an all-around good fellow. Poor 
Nelse! He was mortally wounded by a musket ball in the neck 
early in the morning of the first day at Shiloh, and died a few 
days thereafter. 

The health of the boys while at Camp Carrollton was fine. 
There were a few cases of measles, but as I remember, none were 
fatal. Once I caught a bad cold, but I treated it myself with a 
backwoods remedy and never thought of going to the surgeon 
about it. I took some of the bark of a hickory tree that stood near 
our quarters, and made about a quart of strong hickory-bark tea. 
I drank it hot, and all at once, just before turning in for the night. 
It was green in color, and intensely bitter, but it cured the cold. 

A few weeks after my enlistment, I was appointed to the posi 
tion of corporal. There are, or were in my time, eight corporals in 
an infantry company, each designated by a number, in numerical 
order. I was fifth. I owed this appointment to the friendship 
and influence of Enoch Wallace, and this was only one of the count- 



20 THE STORY OF^A COMMON SOLDIER. 

less acts of kindness that he rendered me during my term of serv 
ice. I just cannot tell you how proud I was over this modest mili 
tary office. I am telling you the truth when I say that I felt more 
pride and pleasure in being a "Corporal of Co. D" than I ever did 
later in the possession of any other office, either military or civil. 
The boys framed up a story on me, to the effect that soon after my 
appointment I was seen in the rear of the company quarters, 
stooping over an empty barrel, with my head projected into it as 
far as possible, and exclaiming in a deep, guttural tone, "COR 
PORAL STILLWELL!" "CORPORAL STILLWELL!" This was 
being done, so the boys said, in order that I might personally en 
joy the sound. In order to be strictly accurate, I will state that, 
although the apointment was made while we were at Carrollton, 
my official warrant was not issued until our arrival at Benton 
Barracks. 

The only thing recalled now that was sort of disagreeable at 
Camp Carrollton was the utter absence of privacy. Even when off 
duty, one couldn t get away by himself, and sit down in peace and 
quiet anywhere. And as for slipping off into some corner and try 
ing to read, alone, a book or paper, the thing was impossible. To 
use a modern expression, there was always "something doing/ 
Many a time after supper, on very cold nights, when the boys 
would all be in the barracks, singing or cutting up, I would sneak 
out and walk around under the big trees, with the snow crackling 
under my feet, for no other purpose whatever than just to be 
alone a while. But that condition of things changed for the better 
after we got down South, and were no longer cooped up in a forty 
acre lot. 

General Grant gained his great victory at Fort Donelson on 
February 16, 1862, and the news reached us a few days later. The 
boys talked about it with feelings of mingled exultation, and 
mortification. Exultation, of course, over the "glorious victory," 
but mortification in regard to its effects and consequences on our 
future military career. We all thought, from the officers down, 
that now the war would end, that we would see no actual service, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 21 

and never fire a shot. That we would be discharged, and go home 
just little "trundle-bed soldiers," and have to sit around and hear 
other s sure-enough warriors tell the stories of actual war and fight 
ing. If we only had known, we were borrowing unnecessary 
trouble, as we found out later. 



22 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER, 



CHAPTER II. 

BENTON BARRACKS. ST. LOUIS, MARCH, 1862. 

Sometime during the last of February, the welcome news was 
given out from regimental headquarters that we were soon to 
leave Camp Carrollton. Our first objective point was to be St. 
Louis, Mo., and what next nobody knew. Definite orders for the 
movement were issued later, and it then occurred to us that possi 
bly all our recent apprehensions about not seeing any fighting 
were somewhat premature. 

Right here I will say that in the brief sketch of the regiment 
published in the reports of the Adjutant-General of the State of 
Illinois, the date of our leaving Carrollton is given as February 21, 
which is wrong. That date is either a mistake of the person who 
wrote that part of the sketch, or a typographical error. I have in 
my possession, and now lying before me, a letter I wrote to my 
father from Benton Barracks, of date March 2, 1862, in which the 
date of our arrival at St. Louis is given as February 28th. And 
I well know that we were only two days on the trip. And besides 
the date given in my letter, I distinctly remember several unwrit 
ten facts and circumstances that satisfy me beyond any doubt, that 
the day we left Carrollton was February 27, 1862. Early in the 
morning of that day, the regiment filed out at the big gate, and 
marched south on the dirt road. Good-bye to old Camp Carrollton ! 
Many of the boys never saw it again, and I never have seen it 
since but once, which was in the summer of 1894. I was back then 
in Jersey county, on a sort of a visit, and was taken with a desire 
to run up to Carrollton and look at the old camp. There was then 
a railroad constructed during the last years of the war, (or about 
that time) , running south from the town, and less than an hour s 
ride from Jerseyville, where I was stopping, so I got on a morning 
train, and, like Jonah when moved to go to Tarshish, "paid the 




(Mother of Leander Stillwell.) 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 23 

fare and went." I found the old camp still being used as a county 
fair ground, and the same big trees, or the most of them, were 
there yet, and looked about as they did thirty-two years before. 
Of course, every vestige of our old barracks was gone. I stood 
around and looked at things awhile, and thought then left, and 
have never been there again. 

The regiment arrived at Jerseyville about sunset. The word 
had gone out, all through the country, that Fry s regiment was 
leaving for the front, and the country people had come to town, 
from miles around, in their farm wagons, to have one last look, 
and bid us good-bye. The regiment, in column by companies, com 
pany distance, marched up the main street running south, and on 
reaching the center of the little town, we wheeled into line, dress 
ed on the colors, and stood at attention. The sidewalks were 
thronged with the country people all intently scanning the lines, 
each little family group anxiously looking for their boy, brother, 
husband or father, as the case may have been. (But right here it 
will be said that the overwhelming majority of the enlisted men of 
the regiment, and the most of the line officers, were unmarried.) 
I was satisfied that my parents were somewhere among the crowd 
of spectators, for I had specially written them as to when we 
would pass through Jerseyville. I was in the front rank, and kept 
my face rigidly fixed to the front, but glanced as best I could up 
and down the sidewalk, trying to locate father and mother. Sud 
denly I saw them, as they struggled to the edge of the walk, not 
more than ten feet from me. I had been somewhat dreading the 
meeting, and the parting that was to come. I remembered the 
emotion of my mother when she first saw me in my uniform, and I 
feared that now she might break down altogether. But there she 
stood, her eyes fixed on me intently, with a proud and happy smile 
on her face! You see, we were a magnificent-looking body of 
young fellows, somewhere between 800 and 900 strong. Our uni 
forms were clean and comparatively new. and our faces were rud 
dy and glowing with health. Besides the regimental colors, each 
company, at that time, carried a small flag, which were all fluttering 



24 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

in the breeze, and our regimental band was playing patriotic tunes 
at its best. I reckon it was a somewhat inspiring sight to country 
people like those who, with possibly very few exceptions, had 
never seen anything like that before. Anyhow, my mother was 
evidently content and glad to see me there, under the shadow of 
the flag, and going forth to fight for the old Union, instead of then 
being sneaking around at home, like some great hulking boys in 
our neighborhood who were of Copperhead sympathies and pa 
rentage. 

Arrangements had been (made to quarter the regiment that 
night in different public buildings in the town, and the companies 
were soon marched to their respective places. Co. D had been as 
signed to the Baptist church, and there my parents and I met, and 
had our final interview. They were nine miles from home, in the 
old farm wagon, the roads (in the main) were through dense woods, 
and across ridges and hollows, the short winter day was drawing 
to a close and night approaching, so our farewell talk was neces 
sarily brief. Our parting was simple and unaffected, without any 
display of emotion by anybody. But mother s eyes looked un 
usually bright, and she didn t linger after she had said, "Good-bye 
Leander." As for my father, he was an old North Carolinian, 
born and reared among the Cherokee Indians at the base of the 
Great Smoky Mountains, and with him, and all other men of his 
type, any yielding to "womanish" feelings was looked on as almost 
disgraceful. His farewell words were few, and concise, and spok 
en in his ordinary tone and manner, he then turned on his heel, 
and was gone. 

Mother left with me a baked chicken, the same being a big, 
fat hen full of stuffing, rich in sage and onions ; also some mince pie, 
old time doughnuts, and cucumber pickles. I shared it all with Bill 
Banfield (my chum), and we had plenty for supper and break 
fast the next day, with the drum-sticks and some other outlying 
portions of the chicken for dinner. 

Early the next morning we pulled out for Alton, on the Mis 
sissippi River. But we did not have to march much that day. The 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 25 

country people around and near Jerseyville turned out in force with 
their farm wagons, and insisted on hauling us to Alton, and their 
invitations were accepted with pleasure. A few miles north of 
Alton we passed what was in those days (and may be yet) a popu 
lar and celebrated school for girls, called the "Monticello Female 
Seminary." The girls had heard of our coining, and were all out 
by the side of the road, a hundred or more, with red, white and 
blue ribbons in their hair and otherwise on their persons. They 
waved white handkerchiefs and little flags at us, and looked their 
sweetest. And didn t we cheer them ! Well, I should say so. We 
stood up in the wagons, and swung our caps, and just whooped and 
hurrahed as long as those girls were in sight. We always treas 
ured this incident as a bright, precious link in the chain of mem 
ory, for it was the last public manifestation, of this nature, of 
good-will and patriotism from girls and women that was given the 
regiment until we struck the soil of the State of Indiana, on our 
return home some months after the close of the war. 

We arrived at Alton about sundown, and at once marched 
aboard the big side-wheel steamboat, "City of Alton," which was 
lying at the wharf waiting for us, and guards were promptly sta 
tioned to prevent the men leaving the boat. But "some one had 
blundered," and no rations had been provided for our supper. We 
were good and hungry, too, for our dinner, at least that of Co. D, 
consisted only of the left-over scraps of breakfast. But the offi 
cers got busy and went up town and bought, with their own money, 
something for us to eat. My company was furnished a barrel of 
oyster crackers, called in those days "butter crackers," and our 
drink was river water. 

The novelty and excitement of the last two days had left me 
nerveless and tired out, and to tell the truth, I was feeling the first 
touch of "home-sickness." So, after supper I went up on the 
hurricane deck of the boat, spread my blanket on the floor, and 
with my knapsack for a pillow, laid down and soon fell asleep. 
The boat did not leave Alton until after dark, and when it pulled 
out, the scream of the whistle, the dashing of the paddles, and 



26 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

the throbbing and crash of the engines, aroused me from my slum 
ber. I sat up and looked around and watched the lights of Alton 
as they twinkled and glimmered in the darkness, until they were 
lost to sight by a bend in the river. Then I laid down and went to 
sleep again, and did not wake until daylight the next morning, and 
found that our boat was moored to the wharf at St. Louis. We 
soon debarked, and marched out to Benton Barracks, which were 
clear out of town and beyond the suburbs. The shape of Benton 
Barracks, as I now remember, was a big oblong square. The bar 
racks themselves consisted of a continuous connected row of low 
frame buildings, the quarters of each company being separated 
from the others by frame partitions, and provided with two rows 
of bunks around the sides and ends. At the rear of the quarters 
of each company was the company kitchen. It was a detached, 
separate frame structure, and amply provided with accommoda 
tions for cooking, including a brick furnace with openings for 
camp kettles, pots, boilers and the like. Both barracks and 
kitchen were comfortable and convenient, and greatly superior to 
our home-made shacks at Carrollton. The barracks inclosed a 
good sized tract of land, but its extent I do not now remember. 
This space was used for drilling and parades, and was almost en 
tirely destitute of trees. The commander of the post, at that time, 
was Colonel Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, an old regular army officer, 
and who had been< a noted western explorer in his younger days. 
I frequently saw him riding about the grounds. He was a little 
dried-up old Frenchman, and had no military look about him what 
ever. All the same, he was a man who had, as a soldier, done long 
and faithful service for his adopted country. Should you ever 
want to post up on him (if you have not already done so), read 
"Adventures of Captain, Bonneville, U. S. A., in the Rocky Moun 
tains and the Far West," by Washington Irving. You will find it 
deeply interesting. 

We remained at Benton Barracks about four weeks. Life 
there was monotonous and void of any special interest. We 
drilled but little, as I now remember, the reason for that being it 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 27 

rained the most of the time we were there and the drill grounds 
were oceans of mud. The drainage was wretched, and the most 
of the rain that fell stayed on the surface until the ground soaked 
it up. And how it did rain at Benton Barracks in March, 1862! 
While there, I found in some recently vacated quarters an old 
tattered, paper bound copy of Dickens "Bleak House," and on 
those rainy days I would climb up in my bunk (an upper one), 
and lie there and read that book. Some of the aristocratic charac 
ters mentioned therein had a country residence called "Chesney 
Wold," where it seemed it always rained. To quote (in sub 
stance) from the book, "The rain was ever falling, drip, drip, drip, 
by day and night," at "the place in Lincolnshire." Twas even so 
at Benton Barracks. When weary of reading, I would turn and 
look a while through the little window at the side of my bunk that 
gave a view of the most of the square which the barracks in 
closed. The surface of the earth was just a quagmire of mud and 
water, and nothing stirring abroad could be seen save occasionally 
a mounted orderly, splashing at a gallop across the grounds. Since 
then I have frequently read "Bleak House," and whenever that 
chapter is reached depicting the rainy weather at the Dedlock 
place, I can again see, and smell, and hear, and feel, those gloomy 
wearisome conditions at Benton Barracks of over half a century 
ago. I have read, somewhere in Gen. Sherman s Memoirs, a state 
ment in substance to the effect that rain in camp has a depressing 
effect upon soldiers, but is enlivening to them on a march. From 
personal experience I know that observation to be true. Many a 
time while on a march we would be caught in heavy rains. The 
dirt road would soon be worked into a loblolly of sticky yellow mud. 
Thereupon we would take off our shoes and socks, tie them to the 
barrel of our muskets a little below the muzzle and just above the 
end of the stock, poise the piece on the hammer on either shoulder, 
stock uppermost, and roll up our breeches to the knees. Then like 
Tarn O Shanter, we "skelpit on through dub and mire, despising 
wind, and rain, and fire," and singing "John Brown s Body," or 
whatever else came handy. But rainy days in camp, especially 



28 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

such as we had at Benton Barracks, engender feelings of gloom 
and dejection that have to be experienced in order to be realized. 
They are just too wretched for any adequate description. 

One day while strolling around the grounds sight seeing, I fell 
in with a soldier who said he belonged to the 14th Wisconsin Infan 
try. He was some years older than me, but was quite sociable, and 
seemed to be a sensible, intelligent fellow. He was full of talk 
about his regiment, said they were nearly all young men, big stal 
wart lumbermen from the pine woods of Wisconsin, and urged me 
to come around some evening when they were on dress parade, and 
look at them. I had found out by this time that almost every sol 
dier would brag about his regiment, so allowance was made for 
what he said. But he excited my curiosity to see those Wisconsin 
boys, so one evening when I was at liberty, I did go and view them 
while they were on dress parade, and found that the soldier had not 
exaggerated. They were great, tall fellows, broad across the 
shoulders and chest, with big limbs. Altogether, they simply were, 
from a physical standpoint, the finest looking soldiers I ever saw 
during my entire term of service. I speak now of this incident and 
of these men, for the reason that later I may say something more 
about this 14th Wisconsin. 

While at Benton Barracks we were given our regimental num 
ber, Sixty-first and thenceforth the regiment was known and 
designated as the Sixty-first Illinois Infantry. We also drew our 
guns. We were furnished with the Austrian rifle musket. It was 
of medium length, with a light brown walnut stock, and was a 
wicked shooter. At that time the most of the western troops were 
armed with foreign-made muskets, imported from Europe. Many 
regiments had old Belgian muskets, a heavy, cumbersome piece, 
and awkward and unsatisfactory every way. We were glad to get 
the Austrians, and were quite proud of them. We used these until 
June, 1863, when we turned them in and drew in lieu thereof the 
Springfield rifle musket of the model of 1863. It was not as 
heavy as the Austrian, was neater looking, and a very efficient 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 29 

firearm. No further change was made, and we carried the Spring 
field thenceforward until we were mustered out. 

It was also here at Benton Barracks that the mustering of the 
regiment into the service of the United States was completed. Ten 
companies, at that time, constituted a regiment of infantry, but 
ours had only nine. We lacked Company K, and it was not re 
cruited, and did not join the regiment until in March, 1864. On 
account of our not having a full regiment, Col. Fry (as we always 
called him) was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel only, which 
was his rank all the time he was with us, and Capt. Simon P. Ohr, 
of Co. A, was commissioned Major. Owing to our lack of one com 
pany, and the further fact that when that company did join us the 
other companies had become much depleted in numbers, the regi 
ment therefore never had an officer of the full rank of Colonel 
until the summer of 1865, when it became entitled to one under the 
circumstances which will be stated further on. 



30 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER III. 



OFF FOR THE SEAT OF WAR. THE BATTLE OF SHILOH. 
MARCH AND APRIL, 1862. 

On March 25th we left Benton Barracks for the front. We 
marched through St. Louis and onto the steamboat that day, but 
from some cause I never knew, the boat did not leave the wharf 
until about dark the next evening. My company was quartered on 
the hurricane deck of the boat. Soon after the boat started down 
the river an incident befell me that looks somewhat comical now, 
but at that time it was to me a serious matter, and one that trou 
bled my conscience a good deal. I had piled my knapsack, with the 
blanket strapped on the outside, and my other stuff, at the foot 
of the gun stack which included my musket. Suddenly I discov 
ered, to my great consternation, that my blanket was gone! Yes, 
my lords and gentlemen, some "false Scot" had deliberately and 
feloniously appropriated my indispensable equipment for a night s 
repose. And a long, raw March night was coming on, and the 
damp and chilly air was rising, like a fog, from the cold surface of 
the river. All signs, too, portended a rainy night. The thunder 
was muttering off in the southwest, intermittent flashes of light 
ning lit up the sky, and scattering drops of rain were even then 
beginning to patter on the hurricane deck and ripple the bosom of 
the stream. What should I do? I must have a blanket, that was 
certain. But all my life the belief had been instilled into me that 
stealing was well-nigh the most disgraceful of all crimes, and that 
a thief was a most odious and contemptible wretch. Moreover, one 
pf the ten commandments "pintedly" declared. "Thou shalt not 
steal." But something had to be done, and speedily. At last it oc 
curred to me that being a soldier, and belonging for the time be 
ing to Uncle Sam, I was a species of government property, which 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 31 

it was my duty to protect at all hazards. That settled the question, 
and conscience and honesty withdrew. Without going into the 
demoralizing details, suffice it to say that I stole a blanket from 
some hapless victim belonging to another company, and thus safe 
guarded the health and military efficiency of a chattel of the Na 
tion. How the other fellow got along, I don t know. I made no 
impertinent inquiries, and, during the day time, indefinitely there 
after, kept that blanket in my knapsack, carefully concealed fyom 
prying eyes. But it will be recorded here that this was the only 
act of downright larceny that I committed during my entire term 
of service, except the gobbling of a couple of onions, which maybe 
I ll mention later. Of course I helped myself many times, while on 
the march, or on picket, to roasting ears, sweet potatoes, apples, 
and the like, but that came under the head of legitimate foraging, 
and was sanctioned by the military authorities. 

The night we left St. Louis I had my first impressive object 
lesson showing the difference between the conditions of the com 
missioned officers and the enlisted men. I had spread my blanket 
at the base of the little structure called the "Texas," on which the 
pilot house stands. All around the bottom of the Texas" was a row 
of small window lights that commanded a view of the interior of 
the boat s cabin below, and I only had to turn my head and look in 
and down, to see what was passing. The officers were seated in 
cushioned chairs, or sauntering around over the carpeted and 
brilliantly lighted room, while their supper was being prepared. 
Colored waiters dressed in white uniforms were bringing in the 
eatables, and when all was ready, a gong was sounded and the of 
ficers seated themselves at the table. And just look at the good 
things they had to eat! Fried ham and beefsteak, hot biscuits, 
butter, molasses, big boiled Irish potatoes steaming hot, 
fragrant coffee served with cream, in cups and saucers, and some 
minor goodies in the shape of preserves and the like. And how 
savory those good things smelled! for I was where I could get 
the benefit of that. And there were the officers, in the warm, 
lighted cabin, seated at a table, with nigger waiters to serve them, 



32 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

feasting on that splendid fare ! Why, it was the very incarnation 
of bodily comfort and enjoyment! And, when the officers should 
be ready to retire for the night, warm and cozy berths awaited 
them, where they would stretch their limbs on downy quilts and 
mattresses, utterly oblivious to the wet and chill on the outside. 
Then I turned my head and took in my surroundings! A black, 
cold night, cinders and soot drifting on us from the smoke stacks, 
and a drizzling rain pattering down. And my supper had con 
sisted of hardtack and raw sow-belly, with river water for a bev 
erage, of the vintage, say, of 1541. And to aggravate the situation 
generally, I was lying on a blanket which a military necessity had 
compelled me to steal. But I reflected that we couldn t all be of 
ficers, there had to be somebody to do the actual trigger-pulling. 
And I further consoled myself with the thought that while the of 
ficers had more privileges than the common soldiers, they likewise 
had more responsibilities, and had to worry their brains about 
many things that didn t bother us a particle. So I smothered all 
envious feelings as best I could, and wrapping myself up good in 
my blanket, went to sleep, and all night long slept the unbroken, 
dreamless sleep of youth and health. 

The weather cleared up that night, and the next day was fine, 
and we all felt in better spirits. Our surroundings were new and 
strange, and we were thrilling with excitement and bright hopes 
of the future. The great majority of us were simple country boys, 
who had so far passed our lives in a narrow circle in the back 
woods. As for myself, before enlisting in the army I had never 
been more than fifty miles from home, had not traveled any on a 
steamboat, and my few short railroad trips did not amount, in the 
aggregate, to more than about seventy-five miles, back and forth. 
But now the contracted horizon of the "Whippoorwill Ridges" ad 
jacent to the old home had suddenly expanded, and a great big 
wonderful world was unfolding to my view. And there was the 
daring, heroic life on which we were entering! No individual boy 
expected that he would be killed, or meet with any other adverse 
fate. Others might, and doubtless would, but he would come out 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 33 

safe and sound, and return home at the end of a victorious war, a 
military hero, and as such would be looked up to, and admired and 
reverenced, all the rest of his life. At any rate, such were my 
thoughts, and I have no doubt whatever that ninety-nine out of a 
hundred of the other boys thought the same. 

On the afternoon, of this day (March 27th) we arrived at 
Cairo, rounded in at the wharf, and remained a short time. The 
town fronted on the Ohio river, which was high at the time, as also 
was the Mississippi. The appearance of Cairo was wretched. 
Levees had been constructed to protect it from high water, but 
notwithstanding the streets and the grounds generally were just a 
foul, stagnant swamp. Engines were at work pumping the sur 
face water into the river through pipes in the levee; otherwise I 
reckon everybody would have been drowned out. Charles Dickens 
saw this locality in the spring of 1842 when on a visit to America, 
and it figures in "Martin Chuzzlewit," under the name of "Eden." 
I never read that book until after the close of the war, but have 
several times since, and will say that if the Eden of 1842 looked 
anything like the Cairo of twenty years later, his description 
thereof was fully warranted. 

Our boat had hardly got moored to the wharf before the word 
went round that some Confederate prisoners were on the transport 
on our right, and we forthwith rushed to that side to get our first 
look at the "Secesh," as we then called them. It was only a small 
batch, about a hundred or so. They were under guard, and on the 
after part of the lower deck, along the sides and the stern of the 
boat. We ascertained that they were about the last installment of 
the Fort Donelson prisoners, and were being shipped to a northern 
military prison. Naturally, we scanned them with great curiosity, 
and the boys soon began to joke and chaff them in a perfectly good 
natured way. They took this silently, with no other manifestation 
than an occasional dry grin. But finally, a rather good looking 
young fellow cocked his eyes toward us and in a soft, drawling tone 
called out, "You-all will sing a different tune by next summah." 
Our boys responded to this with bursts of laughter and some de- 



34 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

risive whoops; but later we found out that the young Confederate 
soldier was a true prophet. 

Our halt at Cairo was brief; the boat soon cast off and pro 
ceeded up the Ohio to the mouth of the Tennessee, and from thence 
up that river. Some time the next day we passed Fort Henry. 
We had read of its capture the month previous by the joint op 
erations of our army and navy, and were all curious to see this 
Confederate stronghold, where a mere handful of men had put up 
such a plucky fight. My ideas of forts at that time had all been 
drawn from pictures in books which depicted old-time fortresses, 
and from descriptions in Scott s "Marmion" of ancient feudal 
castles like "Tantallon strong," and the like. And when we ap 
proached Fort Henry I fully expected to see some grand, imposing 
structure with "battled towers," "donjon keep," "portcullis," 
drawbridges," and what not, and perhaps some officer of high 
rank with a drawn sword, strutting about on the ramparts and 
occasionally shouting, at the top of his voice, "What, ward 
er, ho!" or words to that effect. But, to my utter amazement 
and disgust, when we steamed up opposite Fort Henry I saw only a 
little squatty, insignificant looking mud affair, without the slight 
est feature of any of the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glori 
ous war." It had been built on the low bottom ground near the 
bank of the Tennessee river, the stream w r as now high, and the ad 
jacent land was largely covered with water, while the inside of the 
fort looked a good deal like a hog pen. I couldn t imagine how 
such a contemptible looking thing had stood off our gunboats as 
long as it did. But I did not know then that just such works, with 
earthen walls, were the strongest and best defenses against mod 
ern artillery that could be constructed. In fact, what I didn t know 
about war, at that stage of the proceedings, was broad and com 
prehensive, and covered the whole field. 

As we journeyed up the Tennessee we began to notice queer- 
looking green bunches of something on the trees. As the forest 
had not yet put forth its foliage, we knew that growth could not 
be leaves, and were puzzled to imagine what it could be. But we 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 35 

finally learned from some of the boat s crew that it was mistletoe. 
So far as I knew none of the private soldiers had ever before seen 
that curious evergreen, and it was to us a strange curiosity. But 
we got well acquainted with it later. 

We arrived at Pittsburg Landing on the evening of March 31, 
about sundown. On going into camp in our position upon the line, 
for the first time in our service we dwelt in tents. We had what 
was called the Sibley tent, an affair of a conical shape, rather 
large, and capable of accommodating about twelve men, with their 
accoutrements. As a circumstance bearing on our ignorance of 
life in tents, I will say that we neglected to ditch around them, and 
on the very first night we slept in them there came a heavy rain, 
and the next morning found us lying more or less in the water, and 
our blankets and other stuff sopping wet. But after that, on 
pitching our tents one of the first things we did was to dig around 
them a sufficient ditch with a lateral extension. 

I retain a vivid recollection of the kind of army cooking we 
had for the first few months in Tennessee. At Camp Carrollton 
and Benton Barracks we had company cooks who prepared the 
food for the entire company. They were merely enlisted men, de 
tailed for that purpose, and while their cooking was nothing to 
brag about, it was vastly superior to what now ensued. We di 
vided up into messes, of four, eight, or twelve men, or thereabouts, 
to the mess, and generally would take turns in the culinary line. 
Very few of us knew anything whatever about cooking, and our 
exploits in that regard would have been comical if the effects had 
not been so pernicious. Flour was issued to us after our arrival 
at Pittsburg Landing, but we had no utensils in which we could 
cook biscuits, or loaves. So we would make a batter out of flour, 
water, grease, and salt, and cook it in a mess pan, the product be 
ing the army "flapjack." It invariably was tough as a mule s ear, 
about as heavy as lead, and very indigestible. Later we learned to 
construct ovens of wood, daubed with mud, or of stone, and in 
them, in the course of time, we acquired the knack of baking good 



36 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

bread. But with us in the west the hardtack was generally our 
standard bread diet, and nothing could beat it. 

And for some time our cooking of "Yankee beans," as we 
called them, was simply atrocious. As you know, beans should be 
cooked until they are thoroughly done ; otherwise they are decided 
ly harmful. Well, we would not cook them much more than half 
enough, the result being a sloppy, slimy mess, its looks alone being 
well-nigh sufficient to extinguish one s appetite. And as for the 
rice the horrible messes we would make of that defy description. 
I know that one consequence with me was I contracted such an 
aversion to rice that for many years afterwards, while in civil life, 
I just couldn t eat it in any form, no matter how temptingly it was 
prepared. 

Owing to improperly cooked food, change of climate and of 
water, and neglect of proper sanitation measures in the camps, 
camp diarrhea became epidemic at Pittsburg Landing, especially 
among the "green" regiments like ours. And for about six weeks 
everybody suffered, more or less, the difference being only in de 
gree. The fact is, the condition of the troops in that quarter dur 
ing the prevalence of that disorder was simply so bad and repul 
sive that any detailed description thereof will be passed over. I 
never saw the like before, and never have seen it since. I always 
thought that one thing which aggravated this trouble was the in 
ordinate quantity of sugar some of the men would consume. They 
would not only use it to excess in their coffee and rice, but would 
frequently eat it raw, by handfuls. I happen to think, right now, 
of an incident that illustrates the unnatural appetite of some of 
the men for sugar. It occurred in camp one rainy day during the 
siege of Corinth. Jake Hill, of my company, had covered the top 
of a big army hardtack with sugar in a cone-like form, piling it on 
as long as the tack would hold a grain. Then he seated himself on 
his knapsack and proceeded to gnaw away at his feast, by a system 
of "regular approaches." He was even then suffering from the 
epidemic before mentioned, and so weak he could hardly walk. 
Some one said to him, "Jake, that sugar ain t good for you in your 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 37 

condition." He looked up with an aggrieved air and responded in 
a tone of cruelly injured innocence, "Haven t I the right to eat my 
r-a-a-tion?" Strange to say, Jake got well, and served throughout 
the war. He was a good soldier, too. 

For my part, I quit using sugar in any form, early in my army 
service, (except a little, occasionally, with stewed fruit, or ber 
ries,) and didn t resume its general use until some years after my 
discharge from the army. 

In consequence of the conditions at Pittsburg Landing that 
have been alluded to, men died by the score like rotten sheep. And 
a great many more were discharged for disability and thereby were 
lost to the service. It is true that some of these discharged men, 
especially the younger ones, subsequently re-enlisted, and made 
good soldiers. But this loss to the Union armies in Tennessee in 
the spring of 62 by disease would undoubtedly surpass the casual 
ties of a great battle, but, unlike a battle, there was no resulting 
compensation whatever. 

The battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6 and 7. In 1890 I 
wrote an article on the battle which was published in the New York 
Tribune, and later it appeared in several other newspapers. It has 
also been reprinted in book form in connection with papers by 
other persons, some about the war, and others of a miscellaneous 
nature. The piece I wrote twenty-five years ago is as good, I 
reckon, if not better than anything on that head I can write now, 
so it will be set out here. 

IN THE RANKS AT SHILOH. 

By Leander Stillwell, late First Lieutenant, 61st Illinois Volunteer 

Infantry. 

There has been a great deal said and written about the battle 
of Shiloh, both by Rebel and Union officers and writers. On the 
part of the first there has been, and probably always will be, angry 
dispute and criticism about the conduct of General Beauregard in 
calling off his troops Sunday evening while fully an hour of broad, 
precious daylight still remained, which, as claimed by some, might 



38 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

have been utilized in destroying the remainder of Grant s army 
before Buell could have crossed the Tennessee. On the part of 
Union writers the matters most discussed have been as to whether 
or not our forces were surprised, the condition of Grant s army at 
the close of the first day, what the result would have been with 
out the aid of the gunboats, or if BuelPs army had not come, and 
kindred subjects. It is not my purpose, in telling my story of 
the battle of Shiloh, to say anything that will add to this volume 
of discussion. My age at the time was but eighteen, and my posi 
tion that of a common soldier in the ranks. It would therefore be 
foolish in me to assume the part of a critic. The generals, who, 
from reasonably safe points of observation, are sweeping the field 
with their glasses, and noting and directing the movements of the 
lines of battle, must, in the nature of things, be the ones to fur 
nish the facts that go to make history. The extent of a battle 
field seen by the common soldier is that only which comes within 
the range of the raised sights of his musket. And what little he 
does see is as "through a glass, darkly." The dense banks of 
powder smoke obstruct his gaze; he catches but fitful glimpses of 
his adversaries as the smoke veers or rises. 

Then, too, my own experience makes me think that where the 
common soldier does his duty, all his faculties of mind and body 
are employed in attending to the details of his own personal part 
of the work of destruction, and there is but little time left him for 
taking mental notes to form the bases of historical articles a 
quarter of a century afterward. The handling, tearing, and 
charging of his cartridge, ramming it home (we used muzzle 
loaders during the Civil War), the capping of his gun, the aiming 
and firing, with furious haste and desperate energy, for every 
shot may be his last, these things require the soldier s close per 
sonal attention and make him oblivious to matters transpiring be 
yond his immediate neighborhood. Moreover, his sense of hear 
ing is well-nigh overcome by the deafening uproar going on around 
him. The incessant and terrible crash of musketry, the roar of 
the cannon, the continual zip, zip, of the bullets as they hiss by 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 39 

him, interspersed with the agonizing screams of the wounded, or 
the death shrieks of comrades falling in dying convulsions right 
in the face of the living, these things are not conducive to that 
serene and judicial mental equipoise which the historian enjoys in 
his closet. 

Let the generals and historians, therefore, write of the move 
ments of corps, divisions, and brigades. I have naught to tell 
but the simple story of what one private soldier saw of one of the 
bloodiest battles of the war. 

The regiment to which I belonged was the 61st Illinois In 
fantry. It left its camp of instruction (a country town in southern 
Illinois) about the last of February, 1862. We were sent to Ben- 
ton Barracks, near St. Louis, and remained there drilling (when 
the weather would permit) until March 25th. We left on that 
day for the front. It was a cloudy, drizzly, and most gloomy day, 
as we marched through the streets of St. Louis down to the levee, to 
embark on a transport that was to take us to our destination. 
The city was enveloped in that pall of coal smoke for which St. 
Louis is celebrated. It hung heavy and low and set us all to 
coughing. I think the colonel must have marched us down 
some by-street. It was narrow and dirty, with high buildings 
on either side. The line officers took the sidewalks, while the 
regiment, marching by the flank, tramped in silence down the mid 
dle of the street, slumping through the nasty, slimy mud. There 
was one thing very noticeable on this march through St. Louis, 
and that was the utter lack of interest taken in us by the inhabit 
ants. From pictures I had seen in books at home, my idea was 
that when soldiers departed for war, beautiful ladies stood on bal 
conies and waved snowy-white handkerchiefs at the troops, while 
the men stood on the sidewalks and corners and swung their hats 
and cheered. 

There may have been regiments so favored, but ours was not 
one of them. Occasionally a fat, chunky-looking fellow, of a 
German cast of countenance, with a big pipe in his mouth, would 
stick his head out of a door or window, look at us a few seconds, 



40 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and then disappear. No handkerchiefs nor hats were waved, we 
heard no cheers. My thoughts at the time were that the Union 
people there had all gone to war, or else the colonel was marching 
us through a " Secesh" part of town 

We marched to the levee and from there on board the big 
sidewheel steamer, Empress. The next evening she unfastened 
her moorings, swung her head out into the river, turned down 
stream, and we were off for the "seat of war." We arrived at 
Pittsburg Landing on March 31st. Pittsburg Landing, as its 
name indicates, was simply a landing place for steamboats. It is 
on the west bank of the Tennessee river, in a thickly wooded 
region about twenty miles northeast of Corinth. There was no 
town there then, nothing but "the log house on the hill" that the 
survivors of the battle of Shiloh will all remember. The banks 
of the Tennessee on the Pittsburg Landing side are steep and 
bluffy, rising about 100 feet above the level of the river. Shiloh 
church, that gave the battle its name, was a Methodist meeting 
house. It was a small, hewed log building with a clapboard roof, 
about two miles out from the landing on the main Corinth road. 
On our arrival we were assigned to the division of General B. M. 
Prentiss, and we at once marched out and went into camp. About 
half a mile from the landing the road forks, the main Corinth road 
goes to the right, past Shiloh church, the other goes to the left. 
These two roads come together again some miles out. General 
Prentiss division was camped on this left-hand road at right angles 
to it. Our regiment went into camp almost on the extreme left 
of Prentiss line. There was a brigade of Sherman s division un 
der General Stuart still further to the left, about a mile, I think, 
in camp near a ford of Lick Creek, where the Hamburg and Purdy 
road crosses the creek ; and between the left of Prentiss and Gen 
eral Stuart s camp there were no troops. I know that, for during 
the few days intervening between our arrival and the battle I 
roamed all through those woods on our left, between us and 
Stuart, hunting for wild onions and "turkey peas." 

The camp of our regiment was about two miles from the land- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 41 

ing. The tents were pitched in the woods, and there was a little 
field of about twenty acres in our front. The camp faced nearly 
west, or possibly southwest. 

I shall never forget how glad I was to get off that old steam 
boat and be on solid ground once more, in camp out in those old 
woods. My company had made the trip from St. Louis to Pitts- 
burg Landing on the hurricane deck of the steamboat, and our 
fare on the route had been hardtack and raw fat meat, washed 
down with river water, as we had no chance to cook anything, 
and we had not then learned the trick of catching the surplus hot 
water ejected from the boilers and making coffee with it. But 
once on solid ground, with plenty of wood to make fires, that bill 
of fare was changed. I shall never again eat meat that will taste 
as good as the fried "sowbelly" did then, accompanied by "flap 
jacks" and plenty of good, strong coffee. We had not yet got 
settled down to the regular drills, guard duty was light, and things 
generally seemed to run "kind of loose." And then the climate 
was delightful. We had just left the bleak, frozen north, where 
all was cold and cheerless, and we found ourselves in a clime where 
the air was as soft and warm as it was in Illinois in the latter part 
of May. The green grass was springing from the ground, the 
"Johnny-jump-ups" were in blossom, the trees were bursting into 
leaf, and the woods were full of feathered songsters. There was 
a redbird that would come every morning about sunup and perch 
himself in the tall black-oak tree in our company street, and for 
perhaps an hour he would practice on his impatient, querulous 
note, that said, as plain as a bird could say, "Boys, boys! get up! 
get up ! get up !" It became a standing remark among the boys that 
he was a Union redbird and had enlisted in our regiment to sound 
the reveille. 

So the time passed pleasantly away until that eventful Sun 
day morning, Aprjl 6, 1862. According to the Tribune Almanac 
for that year, the sun rose that morning in Tennessee at 38 minutes 
past five o clock. I had no watch, but I have always been of the 
opinion that the sun was fully an hour and a half high before 



42 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

the fighting began on our part of the line. We had "turned out" 
about sunup, answered to roll-call, and had cooked and eaten our 
breakfast. We had then gone to work, preparing for the regular 
Sunday morning inspection, which would take place at nine o clock. 
The boys were scattered around the company streets and in front 
of the company parade grounds, engaged in polishing and bright 
ening their muskets, and brushing up and cleaning their shoes, 
jackets, trousers, and clothing generally. It was a most beautiful 
morning. The sun was shining brightly through the trees, and 
there was not a cloud in the sky. It really seemed like Sunday in 
the country at home. During week days there was a continual 
stream ,of army wagons going to and from the landing, and the 
clucking of their wheels, the yells and oaths of the drivers, the 
cracking of whips, mingled with the braying of mules, the neigh 
ing of the horses, the commands of the officers engaged in drilling 
the men, the incessant hum and buzz of the camps, the blare of 
bugles, and the roll of drums, all these made up a prodigious vol 
ume of sound that lasted from the coming-up to the going-down 
of the sun. But this morning was strangely still. The wagons 
were silent, the mules were peacefully munching their hay, and the 
army teamsters were giving us a rest. I listened with delight to 
the plaintive, mournful tones of a turtle-dove in the woods close 
by, while on the dead limb of a tall tree right in the camp a wood 
pecker was sounding his "long roll" just as I had heard it beaten 
by his Northern brothers a thousand times on the trees in the 
Otter Creek bottom at home. 

Suddenly, away off on the right, in the direction of Shiloh 
church, came a dull, heavy "Pum !" then another, and still another. 
Every man sprung to his feet as if struck by an electric shock, and 
we looked inquiringly into one another s faces. "What is that?" 
asked every one, but no one answered. Those heavy booms then 
came thicker and faster, and just a few seconds after we heard 
that first dull, ominous growl off to the southwest, came a low, 
sullen, continuous roar. There was no mistaking that sound. 
That was not a squad of pickets emptying their guns on being re- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 43 

lieved from duty ; it was the continuous roll of thousands of mus 
kets, and told us that a battle was on. 

What I have been describing just now occurred during a few 
seconds only, and with the roar of musketry the long roll began to 
beat in our camp. Then ensued a scene of desperate haste, the 
like of which I certainly had never seen before, nor ever saw again. 
I remember that MI the midst of this terrible uproar and confu 
sion, while the boys were buckling on their cartridge boxes, and be 
fore even the companies had been formed, a mounted staff officer 
came galloping wildly down the line from the right. He checked and 
whirled his horse sharply around right in our company street, the 
iron-bound hoofs of his steed crashing among the tin plates lying 
in a little pile where my mess had eaten its breakfast that morning. 
The horse was flecked with foam and its eyes and nostrils were red 
as blood. The officer cast one hurried glance around him, and ex 
claimed : "My God ! this regiment not in line yet ! They have been 
fighting on the right over an hour!" And wheeling his horse, he 
disappeared in the direction of the colonel s tent. 

I know now that history says the battle began about 4:30 that 
morning; that it was brought on by a reconnoitering party sent 
out early that morning by General Prentiss; that General Sher 
man s division on the right was early advised of the approach of 
the Rebel army, and got ready to meet them in ample time. I 
have read these things in books and am not disputing them, but 
aim simply telling the story of an enlisted man on the left of 
Prentiss line as to what he saw and knew of the condition of 
things at about seven o clock that morning. 

Well, the companies were formed, we marched out on the 
regimental parade ground, and the regiment was formed in line. 
The command was given: "Load at will; load!" We had antici 
pated this, however, as the most of us had instinctively loaded our 
guns before we had formed company. All this time the roar on 
the right was getting nearer and louder. Our old colonel rode up 
close to us, opposite the center of the regimental line, and called 
out, "Attention, battalion!" We fixed our eyes on him to hear 



44 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER, 

what was coming. It turned out to be the old man s battle 
harangue. 

"Gentleman," said he, in a voice that every man in the regi 
ment heard, " remember your State, and do your duty today like 
brave men." 

That was all. A year later in the war the old man doubtless 
would have addressed us as "soldiers," and not as "gentlemen," 
and he would have omitted his allusion to the "State," which 
smacked a little of Confederate notions. However, he was a Doug 
las Democrat, and his mind was probably running on Buena Vista, 
in the Mexican war, where, it is said, a Western regiment acted 
badly, and threw a cloud over the reputation for courage of the 
men of that State which required the thunders of the Civil War 
to disperse. Immediately after the colonel had given us his brief 
exhortation, the regiment was marched across the little field I 
have before mentioned, and we took our place in line of battle, the 
woods in front of us, and the open field in our rear. We "dressed 
on" the colors, ordered arms, and stood awaiting the attack. By 
this time the roar on the right had become terrific. The Rebel 
army was unfolding its front, and the battle was steadily advancing 
in our direction. We could begin to see the blue rings of smoke 
curling upward among the trees off to the right, and the pungent 
smell of burning gun-powder filled the air. As the roar came 
travelling down the line from the right it reminded me (only it 
was a million times louder) of the sweep of a thunder-shower in 
summer-time over the hard ground of a stubble-field. 

And there we stood, in the edge of the woods, so still, waiting 
for the storm to break on us. I know mighty well what I was 
thinking about then. My mind s eye was fixed on a little log cabin, 
far away to the north, in the backwoods of western Illinois. I 
could see my father sitting on the porch, reading the little local 
newspaper brought from the post-office the evening before. There 
was my mother getting my little brothers ready for Sunday-school ; 
the old dog lying asleep in the sun; the hens cackling about the 
barn; all these things and a hundred other tender recollections 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 45 

rushed into my mind. I am not ashamed to say now that I would 
willingly have given a general quit-claim deed for every jot and 
tittle of military glory falling to me, past, present, and to come, 
if I only could have been miraculously and instantaneously set 
down in the yard of that peaceful little home, a thousand miles 
away from the haunts of fighting men. 

The time we thus stood, waiting the attack, could not have 
exceeded five minutes. Suddenly, obliquely to our right, there 
was a long, wavy flash of bright light, then another, and another! 
It was the sunlight shining on gun barrels and bayonets and 
there they were at last! A long brown line, with muskets at a 
right shoulder shift, in excellent order, right through the woods 
they came. 

We began firing at once. From one end of the regiment to 
the other leaped a sheet of red flame, and the roar that went up 
from the edge of that old field doubtless advised General Prentiss 
of the fact that the Rebels had at last struck the extreme left of 
his line. We had fired but two or three rounds when, for some 
reason, I never knew what, we were ordered to fall back across 
the field, and did so. The whole line, so far as I could see to the 
right, went back. We halted on the other side of the field, in the 
edge of the woods, in front of our tents, and again began firing. 
The Rebels, of course, had moved up and occupied the line we had 
just abandoned. And here we did our first hard fighting during 
the day. Our officers said, after the battle was over, that we held 
this line an hour and ten minutes. How long it was I do not know. 
I "took no note of time." 

We retreated from this position as our officers afterward said, 
because the troops on our right had given way, and we were 
flanked. Possibly those boys on our right would give the same 
excuse for their leaving, and probably truly, too. Still, I think 
we did not fall back a minute too soon. As I rose from the com 
fortable log from behind which a bunch of us had been firing, I 
saw men in gray and brown clothes, with trailed muskets, running 
through the camp on our right, and I saw something else, too, 



4G THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

that sent a chill all through me. It was a kind of flag I had never 
seen before. It was a gaudy sort of thing, with red bars. It 
flashed over me in a second that that thing was a Rebel flag. It 
was not more than sixty yards to the right. The smoke around 
it was low and dense and kept me from seeing the man, who was 
carrying it, but I plainly saw the banner. It was going fast, with 
a jerky motion, which told me that the bearer was on a double- 
quick. About that time we left. We observed no kind of order 
in leaving; the main thing was to get out of there as quick as we 
could. I ran down our company street, and in passing the big 
Sibley tent of our mess I thought of my knapsack with all my 
traps and belongings, including that precious little packet of letters 
from home. I said to myself, "I will save my knapsack, anyhow ;" 
but one quick backward glance over my left shoulder made me 
change my mind, and I went on. I never saw my knapsack or any 
of its contents afterwards. 

Our broken forces halted and re-formed about half a mile to 
the rear of our camp on the summit of a gentle ridge, covered with 
thick brush. I recognized our regiment by the little gray pony 
the old colonel rode, and hurried to my place in the ranks. Stand 
ing there with our faces once more to the front, I saw a seemingly 
endless column of men in blue, marching by the flank, who were fil 
ing off to the right through the woods, and I heard our old German 
adjutant, Cramer, say to the colonel, "Dose are de troops of Shener- 
al Hurlbut. He is forming a new line dere in de bush." I ex 
claimed to myself from the bottom of my heart, "Bully for General 
Hurlbut and the new line in the bush ! Maybe we ll whip em yet." 
I shall never forget my feelings about this time. I was astonished 
at our first retreat in the morning across the field back to our 
camp, but it occurred to me that maybe that was only "strategy" 
and all done on purpose ; but when we had to give up our camp, 
and actually turn our backs and run half a mile, it seemed to me 
that we were forever disgraced, and I kept thinking to myself: 
"What will they say about this at home?" 

I was very dry for a drink, and as we were doing nothing just 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 47 

then, I slipped out of ranks and ran down to the little hollow in 
our rear, in search of water. Finding a little pool, I threw myself 
on the ground and took a copious draught. As I rose to my feet, 
I observed an officer about a rod above me also quenching his 
thirst, holding his horse meanwhile by the bridle. As he rose I 
saw it was our old adjutant. At no other time would I have dared 
accost him unless in the line of duty, but the situation made me 
bold. "Adjutant," I said, "What does this mean our having to 
run this way? Ain t we whipped?" He blew the water from his 
mustache, and quickly answered in a careless way : "Oh, no ; dat is 
all ride. We yoost fall back to form on the reserve. Sheneral 
Buell vas now crossing der river mit 50,000 men, and vill be here 
pooty quick; and Sheneral Lew Vallace is coming from Crump s 
Landing mit 15,000 more. Ve vips em; ve vips em. Go to your 
gompany." Back I went on the run, with a heart as light as a 
feather. As I took my place in the ranks beside my chum, Jack 
Medford, I said to hirn: "Jack, I ve just had a talk with the old ad 
jutant, down at the branch where I ve been to get a drink. He 
says Buell is crossing the river with 75,000 men and a whole world 
of cannon, and that some other general is coming up from Crump s 
Landing with 25,000 more men. He says we fell back here on pur 
pose, and that we re going to whip the Secesh, just sure. Ain t 
that just perfectly bully?" I had improved some on the adjutant s 
figures, as the news was so glorious I thought a little variance of 
25,000 or 30,000 men would make no difference in the end. But 
as the long hours wore on that day, and still Buell and Wallace did 
not come, my faith in the adjutant s veracity became considerably 
shaken. 

It was at this point that my regiment was detached from Pren- 
tiss division and served with it no more that day. We were sent 
some distance to the right to support a battery, the name of which 
I never learned.* It was occupying the summit of a slope, and was 
actively engaged when we reached it. We were put in position 
*Some years after this sketch was written I ascertained that this bat 
tery was Richardson s, Co. D, 1st Missouri Light Artillery. 



48 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

about twenty rods in the rear of the battery, and ordered to lie flat 
on the ground. The ground sloped gently down in our direction, so 
that by hugging it close, the rebel shot and shell went over us. 

It was here, at about ten o clock in the morning, that I first 
saw Grant that day. He was on horseback, of course, accompanied 
by his staff, and was evidently making a personal examination of 
his lines. He went by us in a gallop, riding between us and the 
battery, at the head of his staff. The battery was then hotly en 
gaged ; shot and shell were whizzing overhead, and cutting off the 
limbs of trees, but Grant rode through the storm with perfect in 
difference, seemingly paying no more attention to the missiles than 
if they had been paper wads. 

We remained in support of this battery until about 2 o clock 
in the afternoon. We were then put in motion by the right flank, 
filed to the left, crossed the left-hand Corinth road ; then we were 
thrown into the line by the command : "By the left flank, march." 
We crossed a little ravine and up a slope, and relieved a regiment on 
the left of Hurlbut s line. This line was desperately engaged, and 
had been at this point, as we afterwards learned, for fully four 
hours. I remember as we went up the slope and began firing, about 
the first thing that met my gaze was what out West we would call 
a "windrow" of dead men in blue ; some doubled up face downward, 
others with their white faces upturned to the sky, brave boys who 
had been shot to death in "holding the line." Here we stayed until 
our last cartridge was shot away. We were then relieved by 
another regiment. We filled our cartridge boxes again and went 
back to the support of our battery. The boys laid down and talked 
in low tones. Many of our comrades alive and well an hour ago, we 
had left dead on that bloody ridge. And still the battle raged. 
From right to left, everywhere, it was one never-ending, terrible 
roar, with no prospect of stopping. 

Somewhere between 4 and 5 o clock, as near as I can tell, every 
thing became ominously quiet. Our battery ceased firing; the gun 
ners leaned against the pieces and talked and laughed. Suddenly a 
staff officer rode up and said something in a low tone to the com- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 49 

mander of the battery, then rode to our colonel and said something 
to him. The battery horses were at once brought up from a ravine 
in the rear, and the battery limbered up and moved off through the 
woods diagonally to the left and rear. We were put in motion by 
the flank and followed it. Everything kept so still, the loudest 
noise I heard was the clucking of the wheels of the gun-carriages 
and caissons as they wound through the woods. We emerged from 
the woods and entered a little old field. I then saw to our right and 
front lines of men in blue moving in the same direction we were, 
and it was evident that we were falling back. All at once, on the 
right, the left, and from our recent front, came one tremendous 
roar, and the bullets fell like hail. The lines took the double-quick 
towards the rear. For awhile the attempt was made to fall back 
in order, and then everything went to pieces. My heart failed me 
utterly. I thought the day was lost. A confused mass of men and 
guns, caissons, army wagons, ambulances, and all the debris of a 
beaten army surged and crowded along the narrow dirt road to the 
landing, while that pitiless storm of leaden hail came crashing on 
us from the rear. It was undoubtedly at this crisis in our affairs 
that the division of General Prentiss was captured. 

I will digress here for a minute to speak of a little incident 
connected with this disastrous feature of the day that has always 
impressed me as a pathetic instance of the patriotism and unselfish 
devotion to the cause that was by no means uncommon among the 
rank and file of the Union armies. 

There was in my company a middle-aged German named 
Charles Oberdieck. According to the company descriptive book, 
he was a native of the then kingdom of Hanover, now a province 
of Prussia. He was a typical German, flaxen-haired, blue-eyed, 
quiet and taciturn, of limited and meager education, but a model sol 
dier, who accepted without question and obeyed without a murmur 
the orders of his military superiors. Prior to the war he had made 
his living by chopping cord-wood in the high, timbered hills near 
the mouth of the Illinois river, or by working as a common laborer 
in the country on the farms at $14 a month. He was unmarried, his 



50 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

parents were dead, and he had no other immediate relatives sur 
viving, either in his fatherland or in the country of his adoption. 
He and I enlisted from the same neighborhood. I had known him 
in civil life at home, and hence he was disposed to be more com 
municative with me than with the other boys of the company. A 
day or two after the battle he and I were sitting in the shade of a 
tree, in camp, talking over the incidents of the fight. "Charley," 
I said to him, "How did you feel along about four o clock Sunday 
afternoon when they broke our lines, we were falling back in dis 
order, and it looked like the whole business was gone up generally?" 
He knocked the ashes from his pipe and, turning his face quickly 
towards me, said: "I yoost tells you how I feels. I no care any- 
dings about Charley ; he haf no wife nor children, fadder nor mud- 
der, brudder nor sister ; if Charley get killed, it makes no difference ; 
dere vas nobody to cry for him, so I dinks nudding about myselfs ; 
but I tells you, I yoost den feels bad for de Cause !" 

Noble, simple-hearted old Charley ! It was the imminent dan 
ger only to the Cause that made his heart sink in that seemingly 
fateful hour. When we heard in the malignant and triumphant 
roar of the Rebel cannon in our rear what might be the death-knell 
of the last great experiment of civilized men to establish among 
the nations of the world a united republic, freed from the curse of 
pampered kings and selfish, grasping aristocrats it was in that 
moment, in his simple language, that the peril to the Cause was the 
supreme and only consideration. 

It must have been when we were less than half a mile from 
the landing on our disorderly retreat before mentioned, that we 
saw standing in line of battle, at ordered arms, extending from 
both sides of the road until lost to sight in the woods, a long, well- 
ordered line of men in blue. What did that mean ? and where had 
they come from ? I was walking by the side of Enoch Wallace, the 
orderly sergeant of my company. He was a man of nerve and cour 
age, and by word and deed had done more that day to hold us 
green and untried boys in ranks and firmly to our duty than any 
other man in the company. But even he, in the face of this seem- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 51 

ingly appalling state of things, had evidently lost heart. I said to 
him: "Enoch, what are those men there for?" He answered in a 
low tone: "I guess they are put there to hold the Rebels in check 
till the army can get across the river." And doubtless that was 
the thought of every intelligent soldier in our beaten column. And 
yet it goes to show how little the common soldier knew of the actual 
situation. We did not know then that this line was the last line of 
battle of the "Fighting Fourth Division" under General Hurlbut; 
that on its right was the division of McClernand, the Fort Donel- 
son boys ; that on its right, at right angles to it, and, as it were, 
the refused wing of the army, was glorious old Sherman, hanging 
on with a bulldog grip to the road across Snake Creek from Crump s 
Landing by which Lew Wallace was coming with 5,000 men. In 
other words, we still had an unbroken line confronting the enemy, 
made up of men who were not yet ready, by any manner of means, 
to give up that they were whipped. Nor did we know then that 
our retreating mass consisted only of some regiments of Hurlbut s 
division, and some -other isolated commands, who had not been duly 
notified of the recession of Hurlbut and of his falling back to form 
a new line, and thereby came very near sharing the fate of Pren- 
tiss men and being marched to the rear as prisoners of war. Speak 
ing for myself, it was twenty years after the battle before I found 
these things out, yet they are true, just as much so as the fact that 
the sun rose yesterday morning. Well, we filed through Hurlbut s 
line, halted, re-formed, and faced to the front once more. We were 
put in place a short distance in the rear of Hurlbut, as a support to 
some heavy guns. It must have been about five o clock now. Sud 
denly, on the extreme left, and just a little above the landing, came 
a deafening explosion that fairly shook the ground beneath our 
feet, followed by others in quick and regular succession. The look 
of wonder and inquiry that the soldiers faces wore for a moment 
disappeared for one of joy and exultation as it flashed across our 
minds that the gunboats had at last joined hands in the dance, 
and were pitching big twenty-pound Parrott shells up the ravine 
in front of Hurlbut, to the terror and discomfiture of our adver 
saries. 



52 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

The last place my regiment assumed was close to the road com 
ing up from the landing. As we were lying there I heard the 
strains of martial music and saw a body of men marching by the 
flank up the road. I slipped out of ranks and walked out to the side 
of the road to see what troops they were. Their band was play 
ing "Dixie s Land," and playing it well. The men were marching 
at a quick step, carrying their guns, cartridge-boxes, haversacks, 
canteens, and blanket-rolls. I saw that they had not been in the 
fight, for there was no powder-smoke on their faces. "What regi 
ment is this ?" I asked of a young sergeant marching on the flank. 
Back came the answer in a quick, cheery tone, "The 36th Indiana, 
the advance guard of Buell s army." 

I did not, on hearing this, throw my cap into the air and yell. 
That would have given those Indiana fellows a chance to chaff and 
guy me, and possibly make sarcastic remarks, which I did not care 
to provoke. I gave one big, gasping swallow and stood still, buU 
the blood thumped in the veins of my throat and my heart fairly 
pounded against my little infantry jacket in the joyous rapture of 
this glorious intelligence. Soldiers need not be told of the thrill 
of unspeakable exultation they all have felt at the sight of armed 
friends in danger s darkest hour. Speaking for myself alone, I can 
only say, in the most heart-felt sincerity, that in all my obscure 
military career, never to me was the sight of reinforcing legions 
so precious and so welcome as on that Sunday evening when the 
rays of the descending sun were flashed back from the bayonets of 
Buell s advance column as it deployed on the bluffs of Pittsburg 
Landing. 

My account of the battle is a?: out done. So far as I saw or 
heard, very little fighting was done that evening after Buell s ad 
vance crossed the river. The sun must have been fully an hour 
high when anything like regular anrl continuous firing had entirely 
ceased. What the result would have been if Beauregard had 
massed his troops on our left and forced the fighting late Sunday 
evening would be a matter of opinion, and a common soldier s 
opinion would not be considered worth much. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 53 

My regiment was held in reserve the next day, and was not 
engaged. I have, therefore, no personal experience of that day to 
relate. After the battle of Shiloh, it fell to my lot to play my 
humble part in several other fierce conflicts of arms, but Shiloh 
was my maiden fight. It was there I first saw a gun fired in anger, 
heard the whistle of a bullet, or saw a man die a violent death, and 
my experiences, thoughts, impressions, and sensations on that 
bloody Sunday will abide with me as long as I live. 



54 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER IV. 



SOME INCIDENTS OF THE BATTLE OF SHILOH. 

There were many little incidents at Shiloh that came under 
my personal observation that I did not mention in the foregoing 
sketch. The matter of space was important, so I passed them 
over. But that consideration does not arise now, and as I am 
writing this for you, I will say something here about several 
things that I think may be of some interest. 

I distinctly remember my first shot at Shiloh. It was fired 
when we were in our first position, as described in my account of 
the battle. I think that when the boys saw the enemy advancing 
they began firing of their own motion, without waiting for orders. 
At least, I don t remember hearing any. I was in the front ranjt, 
but didn t fire. I preferred to wait for a good opportunity, when I 
could take deliberate aim at some individual foe. But when the 
regiment fired, the Confederates halted and began firing also, and 
fronts of both lines were at once shrouded in smoke. I had my 
gun at a ready, and was trying to peer under the smoke in order to 
get a sight of our enemies. Suddenly I heard some one in a highly 
excited tone calling to me from just in my rear, "Still well! shoot! 
shoot! Why don t you shoot?" I looked around and saw that this 
command was being given by Bob Wilder, our second lieutenant, 
who was in his place, just a few steps to the rear. He was a young 
man, about twenty-five years old, and was fairly wild with excite 
ment, jumping up and down "like a hen on a hot griddle." "Why, 
lieutenant," said I, "I can t see anything to shoot at." "Shoot, 
shoot, anyhow !" ""All right," I responded, "if you say shoot, shoot 
it is ;" and bringing my gun to my shoulder, I aimed low in the di 
rection of the enemy, and blazed away through the smoke. I have 
always doubted if this, my first shot, did any execution but 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 55 

there s no telling. However, the lieutenant was clearly right. Our 
adversaries were in our front, in easy range, and it was our duty 
to aim low, fire in their general direction, and let fate do the rest. 
But at the time the idea to me was ridiculous that one should 
blindly shoot into a cloud of smoke without having a bead on the 
object to be shot at. I had shot squirrels and rabbits, and other 
small game, in the big woods adjacent -to our backwoods home, 
from the time I was big enough to carry a gun. In fact, I began 
when I was too small to shoot "off hand," but had to fire from a 
"rest," any convenient stump, log, or forked bush. The gun I 
used was a little old percussion lock rifle, with a long barrel, car 
rying a bullet which weighed about sixty to the pound. We boys 
had to furnish our own ammunition, lead (which we moulded 
into bullets), gun-caps, and powder. Our principal source of rev 
enue whereby we got money to buy ammunition was hazel-nuts, 
which we would gather, shuck, and sell at five cents a quart. And 
the work incident to the gathering and shucking of a quart of 
hazel nuts was a decidedly tedious job. But it made us economical 
in the use of our ordnance stores, so we would never throw away 
a shot carelessly or unnecessarily. And it was a standing rule 
never to shoot a squirrel anywhere except in the head, save as a 
last resort, when circumstances compelled one to fire at some other 
part of the body of the little animal. And so I thought, at the be 
ginning of my military career, that I should use the same care and 
circumspection in firing an old musket when on the line of battle 
that I had exercised in hunting squirrels. But I learned better in 
about the first five minutes of the battle of Shiloh. However, in 
every action I was in, when the opportunity was afforded, I took 
careful and deliberate aim, but many a time the surroundings were 
such that the only thing to do was to hold low, and fire through 
the smoke in the direction of the enemy. I will say here that the 
extent of wild shooting done in battle, especially by raw troops, is 
astonishing, and rather hard to understand. When we fell back 
to our second line at Shiloh, I heard an incessant humming sound 
away up above our heads, like the flight of a swarm of bees. In 



56 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

my ignorance, I at first hardly knew what that meant, but it pres 
ently dawned on me that the noise was caused by bullets singing 
through the air from twenty to a hundred feet over our heads. 
And after the battle I noticed that the big trees in our camp, just 
in the rear of our second line, were thickly pock-marked by mus 
ket balls at a distance of fully a hundred feet from the ground. 
And yet we were separated from the Confederates only by a little, 
narrow field, and the intervening ground was perfectly level. But 
the fact is, those boys were fully as green as we were, and doubt 
less as much excited. The Confederate army at Shiloh was com 
posed of soldiers the great majority of whom went under fire there 
for the first time, and I reckon they were as nervous and badly 
scared as we were. 

I never shall forget how awfully I felt on seeing for the first 
time a man killed in battle. This occurred on our second position, 
above mentioned. Our line of battle here was somewhat irregular, 
and the men had become mixed up. The trees and stumps were 
thick, and we availed ourselves of their protection whenever pos 
sible. I had a tree, it was embarrassingly small, but better than 
none. I took to a log later. But there was a man just on my right 
behind a tree of generous proportions, and I somewhat envied him. 
He was actively engaged in loading and firing, and was standing up 
to the work well when I last saw him alive. But, all at once, there 
he was lying on his back, at the foot of his tree, with one leg dou 
bled under him, motionless, anol stone dead! He probably had 
been hit square in the head while aiming, or peeking around the 
tree. I stared at his body, perfectly horrified! Only a few sec 
onds ago that man was alive and well, and now he was lying on the 
ground, done for, forever! The event came nearer completely up 
setting me than anything else that occurred during the entire bat 
tle but I got used to such incidents in the course of the day. 

After rallying at our third position, we were moved a short 
distance to the rear, and formed in line at right angles to the road 
from our camp to the landing. While standing there I casually no 
ticed a large wall tent at the side of the road, a few steps to my 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 57 

rear. It was closed up, and nobody stirring around it. Suddenly 
I heard, right over our heads, a frightful "s-s-wis-sh," and fol 
lowed by a loud crash in this tent. Looking around, I saw a big, 
gaping hole in the wall of the tent, and on the other side got a 
glimpse of the cause of the disturbance a big cannon ball ricochet- 
ting down the ridge, and hunting further mischief. And at the 
same moment of time the front flaps of the tent were frantically 
thrown open, and out popped a fellow in citizen s clothes. He had 
a Hebrew visage, his face was as white as a dead man s, and his 
eyes were sticking out like a crawfish s. He started down the road 
toward the landing at probably the fastest gait he had ever made 
in his life, his coat tails streaming behind him, and the boys yelling 
at him. We proceeded to investigate the interior of that tent at 
once, and found that it was a sutler s establishment, and crammed 
with sutler goods. The panic-struck individual who had just va 
cated it was of course the proprietor. He had adopted ostrich 
tactics, had buttoned himself up in the tent, and was in there keep 
ing as still as a mouse, thinking, perhaps, that as he could see no 
body, nobody could see him. That cannon ball must have been a 
rude surprise. In order to have plenty of "han roomance," we 
tore down the tent at once, and then proceeded to appropriate the 
contents. There were barrels of apples, bologna sausages, cheeses, 
canned oysters and sardines, and lots of other truck. I was filling 
my haversack with bologna when Col. Fry rode up to me and 
said: "My son, will you please give me a link of that sausage?" 
Under the circumstances, I reckon I must have been feeling some 
what impudent and reckless, so I answered rather saucily, "Cer 
tainly, Colonel, we are closing out this morning below cost;" and 
I thrust into his hands two or three big links of bologna. There 
was a faint trace of a grin on the old man s face as he took the 
provender, and he began gnawing at once on one of the hunks, 
while the others he stowed away in his equipments. I suspected 
from this incident that the Colonel had had no breakfast that 
morning, which perhaps may have been the case. Soon after this 
I made another deal. There were some cavalry in line close by us, 



58 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and one of them called out to me, "Pardner, give me some of them 
apples." "You bet;" said I, and quickly filling my cap with the 
fruit, handed it to him. He emptied the apples in his haversack, 
took a silver dime from his pocket, and proffered it to me, saying, 
"Here." "Keep your money don t want it;" was my response, 
but he threw the coin at my feet, and I picked it up and put it in 
my pocket. It came agreeably handy later. 

Jack Medford of my company came up to me with a most com 
placent look on his face, and patting his haversack, said, Lee, I just 
now got a whole lot of paper and envelopes, and am all fixed for 
writing home about this battle." "Seems to me, Jack," I suggest 
ed, "you d better unload that stuff, and get something to eat. Don t 
worry about writing home about the battle till it s done fought." 
Jack s countenance changed, he muttered, "Reckon you re right, 
Lee;" and when next I saw him, his haversack was bulging with 
bologna and cheese. All this time the battle was raging furiously 
on our right, and occasionally a cannon ball, flying high, went 
screaming over our heads. Walter Scott, in "The Lady of the 
Lake," in describing an incident of the battle of Beal an Duine, 
speaks of the unearthly screaming and yelling that occurred, 
sounding 

"As if all the fiends from heaven that fell 
Had pealed the banner-cry of hell." 

That comparison leaves much for the imagination, but, speaking 
from experience, I will say that of all the blood-curdling sounds I 
ever heard, the worst is the terrific scream of a cannon ball or shell 
passing close over one s head; especially that kind with a cavity 
in the base that sucks in air. At least, they sounded that way till 
I got used to them. As a matter of fact, artillery in my time was 
not near as dangerous as musketry. It was noisy, but didn t kill 
often unless at close range and firing grape and canister. 

As stated in the preceding sketch, sometime during the fore 
noon the regiment was sent to the support of a battery, and re 
mained there for some hours. The most trying situation in battle 
is one where you have to lie flat on the ground, under fire more or 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 59 

less, and without any opportunity to return it. The constant 
strain on the nerves is almost intolerable. So it was with feelings 
of grim but heart-felt relief that we finally heard the Colonel com 
mand, "Attention, battalion!" Our turn had come at last. We 
sprang to our feet with alacrity, and were soon in motion, march 
ing by the flank diagonally towards the left, from whence, for some 
hours, had been proceeding heavy firing. We had not gone far be 
fore I saw something which hardly had an inspiring effect. We 
were marching along an old, grass-grown country road, with a rail- 
fence on the right which enclosed a sort of woods pasture, and 
with a dense forest on our left, when I saw a soldier on our left, 
slowly making his way to the rear. He had been struck a sort of 
glancing shot on the left side of his face, and the skin and flesh of 
his cheek were hanging in shreds. His face and neck were covered 
with blood and he was a frightful sight. Yet he seemed to be per 
fectly cool and composed and wasn t "taking on" a bit. As he came 
opposite my company, he looked up at us and said, "Give em hell, 
boys ! They ve spoiled my beauty." It was manifest that he was 
not exaggerating. 

When we were thrown into line on our new position and be 
gan firing, I was in the front rank, and my rear rank man was 
Philip Potter, a young Irishman, who was some years my senior. 
When he fired his first shot, he came very near putting me out of 
action. I think that the muzzle of his gun could not have been 
more than two or three inches from my right ear. The shock of 
the report almost deafened me at the time, and my neck and right 
cheek were peppered with powder grains, which remained there 
for years until finally absorbed in the system. I turned to Phil in 
a fury, exclaiming, "What in the hell and damnation do you 
mean?" Just then down went the man on my right with a sharp 
cry, and followed by the one on the left, both apparently severely 
wounded. The thought of my shocking conduct, in thus indulging 
in wicked profanity at such a time, flashed upon me, and I almost 
held my breath, expecting summary punishment on the spot. But 
nothing of the kind happened. And, according to history, Wash- 



60 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

ington swore a good deal worse at the battle of Monmouth, and 
Potter was more careful thereafter. 

Poor Phil! On December 7, 1864, while fighting on the skir 
mish line near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and just a few paces to 
my left, he was mortally wounded by a gun-shot in the bowels 
and died in the hospital a few days later. He was a Catholic, 
and in his last hours was almost frantic because no priest was at 
hand to grant him absolution. 

Right after we began firing on this line I noticed, directly in 
my front and not more than two hundred yards away, a large Con 
federate flag flapping defiantly in the breeze. The smoke was too 
dense to enable me to see the bearer, but the banner was distinctly 
visible. It looked hateful to me, and I wanted to see it come down. 
So I held on it, let my gun slowly fall until I thought the sights 
were about on a waist line, and then fired. I peered eagerly under 
the smoke to see the effect of my shot, but the blamed thing was 
still flying. I fired three or four more shots on the same line as 
the first, but with no apparent results. I then concluded that the 
bearer was probably squatted behind a stump, or something, and 
that it was useless to waste ammunition on him. Diagonally to my 
left, perhaps two hundred and fifty yards away, the Confederate 
line of battle was in plain sight. It was in the open, in the edge 
of an old field, with woods to the rear. It afforded a splendid 
mark. Even the ramrods could be seen flashing in the air, as the 
men, while in the act of loading, drew and returned the rammers. 
Thereupon I began firing at the enemy on that part of the line, 
and the balance of the contents of my cartridge box went in that 
direction. It was impossible to tell if any of my shots took effect, 
but after the battle I went to the spot and looked over the ground. 
The Confederate dead lay there thick, and I wondered, as I looked 
at them, if I had killed any of those poor fellows. Of course I 
didn t know, and am glad now that I didn t. And I will say here 
that I do not now have any conclusive knowledge that during my 
entire term of service I ever killed, or even wounded, a single man. 
It is more than probable that some of my shots were fatal, but I 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 61 

don t know it, and am thankful for the ignorance. You see, after 
all, the common soldiers of the Confederate Armies were American 
boys, just like us, and conscientiously believed that they were right. 
Had they been soldiers of a foreign nation, Spaniards, for in 
stance, I might feel differently. 

When we "went in" on the above mentioned position old 
Capt. Reddish took his place in the ranks, and fought like a com 
mon soldier. He had picked up the musket of some dead or 
wounded man, and filled his pockets with cartridges and gun caps, 
and so was well provided with ammunition. He unbuckled his 
sword from the belt, and laid it in the scabbard at his feet, and 
proceeded to give his undivided attention to the enemy. I can 
now see the old man in my mind s eye, as he stood in ranks, load 
ing and firing, his blue-gray eyes flashing, and his face lighted up 
with the flame of battle. Col. Fry happened to be near us at one 
time, and I heard old Capt. John yell at him: "Injun fightin, 
Colonel! Jest like Injun fightin !" When we finally retired, the 
Captain shouldered his musket and trotted off with the rest of 
us, oblivious of his "cheese-knife," as he called it, left it lying on 
the ground, and never saw it again. 

There was a battery of light artillery on this line, about a 
quarter of a mile to our right, on a slight elevation of the ground. 
It was right flush up with the infantry line of battle, and oh, how 
those artillery men handled their guns! It seemed to me that 
there was the roar of a cannon from that battery about every 
other second. When ramming cartridge, I sometimes glanced in 
that direction. The men were big fellows, stripped to the waist, 
their white skins flashing in the sunlight, and they were working 
like I have seen men doing when fighting a big fire in the woods. 
I fairly gloated over the fire of that battery. "Give it to them, my 
sons of thunder !" I would say to myself ; "Knock the ever-lastin 
stuff in out of em !" And, as I ascertained after the battle, they 
did do frightful execution. 

In consideration of the fact that now-a-days, as you know, I 
refuse to even kill a chicken, some of the above expressions may 



62 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

sound rather strange. But the fact is, a soldier on the fighting 
line is possessed by the demon of destruction. He wants to kill, 
and the more of his adversaries he can see killed, the more in 
tense his gratification. Gen. Grant somewhere in his Memoirs ex 
presses the idea (only in milder language than mine) when he 
says: 

"While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down 
by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure." 

The regiment bivouacked for the night on the bluff, not far 
from the historic "log house." Rain set in about dark, and not 
wanting to lie in the water, I hunted around and found a little 
brush-pile evidently made by some man from a sapling he had cut 
down and trimmed up some time past when the leaves were on 
the trees. I made a sort of pillow out of my gun, cartridge box, 
haversack and canteen, and stretched myself out on the brush-pile, 
tired to death, and rather discouraged over the events of the day. 
The main body of Buell s men, "the army of the Ohio," soon 
after dark began ascending the bluff at a point a little above the 
landing, and forming in line in the darkness a short distance be 
yond. I have a shadowy impression that this lasted the greater 
part of the night. Their regimental bands played continuously 
and it seemed to me that they all played the tune of "The Girl I 
Left Behind Me." And the rain drizzled down, while every fifteen 
minutes one of the big navy guns roared and sent a ponderous shell 
shrieking up the ravine above in the direction of the enemy. To 
this day, whenever I hear an instrumental band playing "The Girl 
I Left Behind Me," there come to me the memories of that gloomy 
Sunday night at Pittsburg Landing. I again hear the ceaseless 
patter of the rain, the dull, heavy tread of Buell s marching 
columns, the thunderous roar of the navy guns, the demoniacal 
scream of the projectile, and mingled with it all is the sweet, 
plaintive music of that old song. We had an army version of it I 
have never seen in print, altogether different from the original bal 
lad. The last stanza of this army production was as follows : 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 63 

"If ever I get through this war, 
And a Rebel ball don t find me, 
I ll shape my course by the northern star, 
To the girl I left behind me." 

I have said elsewhere that the regiment was not engaged on 
Monday. We remained all that day at the place where we biv 
ouacked Sunday night. The ends of the staffs of our regimental 
flags were driven in the ground, the banners flapping idly in the 
breeze, while the men sat or lay around with their guns in their 
hands or lying by them, their cartridge-boxes -buckled on, and all 
ready to fall in line at the tap of the drum. But for some rea 
son that I never knew, we were not called on. Our division com 
mander, General B. M. Prentiss, and our brigade commander, Col. 
Madison Miller, were both captured on Sunday with the bulk of 
Prentiss division, so I reckon we were sort of "lost children." But 
we were not alone. There were also other regiments of Grant s 
command which were held in reserve and did not fire a shot on 
Monday. 

After the battle I roamed around over the field, the most of 
the following two days, looking at what was to be seen. The fear 
ful sights apparent on a bloody battlefield simply cannot be de 
scribed in all their horror. They must be seen in order to be fully 
realized. As Byron, somewhere in "Don Juan," truly says: 

"Mortality! Thou hast thy monthly bills, 
Thy plagues, thy famines, thy physicians, yet tick, 
Like the death-watch, within our ears the ills 
Past, present, and to come; but all may yield 
To the true portrait of one battlefield." 

There was a &mall clearing on the battlefield called the 
"Peach Orchard" field. It was of irregular shape, and about fif 
teen or twenty acres in extent, as I remember. However, I can 
not now be sure as to the exact size. It got its name, probably, 
from the fact that there were on it a few scraggy peach trees. The 
Union troops on Sunday had a strong line in the woods just north 
of the field, and the Confederates made four successive charges 



64 THE STORY OF. A COMMON SOLDIER. 

across this open space on our line, all of which were repulsed with 
frightful slaughter. I walked all over this piece of ground the 
day after the close of the battle, and before the dead had been 
buried. It is the simple truth to say that this space was literally 
covered with the Confederate dead, and one could have walked all 
over it on their bodies. Gen. Grant, in substance, makes the same 
statement in his Memoirs. It was a fearful sight. But not far 
from the Peach Orchard field, in a westerly direction, was a still 
more gruesome spectacle. Some of our forces were in line on an old, 
grass-grown country road that ran through thick woods. The 
wheels of wagons, running for many years right in the same ruts, 
had cut through the turf, so that the surface of the road was some 
what lower than the adjacent ground. To men firing on their 
knees this afforded a slight natural breast-work, which was sub 
stantial protection. In front of this position, in addition to thf 
large timber, was a dense growth of small under-brush, post-oak 
and the like, which had not yet shed their leaves, and the ground 
also was covered with layers of dead leaves. There was desperate 
fighting at this point, and during its progress exploding shells set 
the woods on fire. The clothing of the dead Confederates lying in 
these woods caught fire, and their bodies were burned to a crisp. 
I have read, somewhere, that some wounded men were burned to 
death, but I doubt that. I walked all over the ground looking at 
these poor fellows, and scrutinized them carefully to see the nature 
of their hurts and they had evidently been shot dead, or expired in 
a few seconds after being struck. But, in any event, the sight was 
horrible. I will not go into details, but leave it to your imagination. 
I noticed, at other places on the field, the bodies of two Con 
federate soldiers, whose appearance I shall never forget. They 
presented a remarkable contrast of death in battle. One was a full 
grown man, seemingly about thirty years of age, with sandy, red 
dish hair, and a scrubby beard and mustache of the same color. 
He had been firing from behind a tree, had exposed his head, and 
had been struck square in the forehead by a musket ball, killed in 
stantly, and had dropped at the foot of the tree in a heap. He was 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 65 

in the act of biting a cartridge when struck, his teeth were still 
fastened on the paper extremity, while his right hand clutched the 
bullet end. His teeth were long and snaggy, and discolored by to 
bacco juice. As just stated, he had been struck dead seemingly in 
stantaneously. His eyes were wide open and gleaming with Satan 
ic fury. His transition from life to death had been immediate, with 
the result that there was indelibly stamped on his face all the furi 
ous rage and lust of battle. He was an ill-looking fellow, and all 
in all was not an agreeable object to contemplate. The other was 
a far different case. He was lying on a sloping ridge, where the 
Confederates had charged a battery, and had suffered fearfully. 
He was a mere boy, not over eighteen, with regular features, light 
brown hair, blue eyes, and, generally speaking, was strikingly 
handsome. He had been struck on his right leg, above the knee, 
about mid-way the thigh, by a cannon ball, which had cut off the 
limb, except a small strip of skin. He was lying on his back, at 
full length, his right arm straight up in the air, rigid as a stake, 
and his fist tightly clinched. His eyes were wide open, but their 
expression was calm and natural. The shock and the loss of blood 
doubtless brought death to his relief in a short time. As I stood 
looking at the unfortunate boy, I thought of how some poor moth 
er s heart would be well-nigh broken when she heard of the sad, 
untimely fate of her darling son. But, before the war was over, 
doubtless thousands of similar cases occurred in both the Union 
and Confederate armies. 

I believe I will here speak of a notion of mine, to be consid 
ered for whatever you may think it worth. As you know, I am not 
a religious man, in the theological sense of the term, having never 
belonged to a church in my life. Have just tried, to the best of my 
ability, to act according to the Golden Rule, and let it go at that. 
But, from my earliest youth, I have had a peculiar reverence for 
Sunday. I hunted much with a gun when a boy, and so did the 
people generally of my neighborhood. Small game in that back 
woods region was very plentiful, and even deer were not uncom 
mon. Well, it was a settled conviction with us primitive people 



66 THE STORY OF M COMMON SOLDIER. 

that if one went hunting on Sunday, he would not only have bad 
luck in that regard that day, but also all the rest of the week. So, 
when the Confederates began the battle on Sunday, I would keep 
thinking, throughout its entire progress, "You fellows started this 
on Sunday, and you ll get licked." I ll admit that there were a few 
occasions when things looked so awful bad that I became dis 
couraged, but I quickly rallied, and my Sunday superstition or 
whatever it may be called was justified in the end. In addition 
to Shiloh, the battles of New Orleans in 1815, Waterloo, and Bull 
Run were fought on a Sunday, and in each case the attacking par 
ty was signally defeated. These results may have been mere coin 
cidences, but I don t think so. I have read somewhere an authentic 
statement that President Lincoln entertained this same belief, and 
always was opposed to aggressive movements on Sundays by the 
Union troops. 

The wildest possible rumors got into circulation at home, 
about some of the results of the battle. I have now lying before 
me an old letter from my father of date April 19th, in answer to 
mine (which I will mention later) giving him the first definite 
intelligence about our regiment and the neighorhood boys. Among 
other things he said: "We have had it here that Fry s regiment 
was all captured that was not killed ; pretty much all given up as 
lost. That Beauregard had run you all down a steep place into 
the Tennessee river, * * * that Captain Reddish had his arm 
shot off, that Enoch Wallace was also wounded ;" and here fol 
lowed the names of some others who (the same as Reddish and Wal 
lace) hadn t received even a scratch. My letter to my father, 
mentioned above, was dated April 10, and was received by him on 
the 18th. It was brief, occupying only about four pages of the 
small, sleazy note paper that we bought in those days of the sut 
lers. I don t remember why I didn t write sooner, but it was prob 
ably because no mail-boat left the landing until about that time. 
The old mail hack ordinarily arrived at the Otter Creek post-office 
from the outside world an hour or so before sundown, and the 
evening my letter came, the little old post-office and general store 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 67 

was crowded with people intensely anxious to hear from their 
boys or other relatives in the 61st Illinois. The distribution of 
letters in that office in those times was a proceeding of much sim 
plicity. The old clerk who attended to that would call out in a 
stentorian tone the name of the addressee of each letter, who, if 
present, would respond "Here !" and then the letter would be given 
a dexterous flip, and went flying to him across the room. But on 
this occasion there were no letters from the regiment, until just 
at the last the clerk called my father s name "J. 0. Stillwell!" 
and again, still louder, but there was no response. Whereupon the 
clerk held the letter at arm s length, and carefully scrutinized the 
address. "Well," said he finally, "this is from Jerry Stillwell s 
boy, in the 61st, so I reckon he s not killed, anyhow." A murmur 
of excitement went through the room at this, and the people 
crowded up to get a glimpse of even the handwriting of the ad 
dress. "Yes, that s from Jerry s boy, sure," said several. There 
upon William Noble and Joseph Beeman, who were old friends of 
father s, begged the postmaster to "give them the letter, and they 
would go straight out to Stillwell s with it, have him read it, and 
then they would come right back with the news." Everybody sec 
onded the request, the postmaster acceded, and handed one of 
them the letter. They rushed out, unfastened their horses, and 
left in a gallop for Stillwell s, two miles away, on the south side of 
Otter Creek, out in the woods. As they dashed up to the little 
old log cabin they saw my father out near the barn ; the one with 
the letter waved it aloft, calling at the top of his voice: "Letter 
from your boy, Jerry!" My mother heard this, and she came 
running from the house, trembling with excitement. The letter 
was at once opened and read, and the terrible reports which to 
that time had prevailed about the fate of Fry s regiment vanished 
in the air. It s true, it contained some sad news, but nothing to be 
compared with the fearful accounts which had been rife in the 
neighborhood. I have that old letter in my possession now. 

Soon after the battle Gov. Richard Yates, of Illinois, Gov. 
Louis P. Harvey, of Wisconsin, and many other civilians, came 



68 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

down from the north to look after the comfort of the sick and 
wounded soldiers of their respective states. The 16th Wisconsin 
Infantry was camped next to us, and I learned one afternoon that 
Gov. Harvey was to make them a speech that evening, after dress 
parade, and I went over to hear him. The Wisconsin regiment did 
not turn out in military formation, just gathered around him in a 
dense group under a grove of trees. The Governor sat on a horse 
while making his speech. He wore a large, broad-brimmed hat, 
his coat was buttoned to the chin, and he had big buckskin gaunt 
lets on his hands. He was a fine looking man, heavy set, and about 
forty-two years old. His remarks were not lengthy, but were 
patriotic and eloquent. I remember especially how he compli 
mented the Wisconsin soldiers for their good conduct in battle, 
that their state was proud of them, and that he, as Governor, in 
tended to look after them, and care for them to the very best of 
his ability, as long as he was in office, and that when the time 
came for him to relinquish that trust, he would still remember 
them with interest and the deepest affection. His massive frame 
heaved with the intensity of his feelings as he spoke, and he im 
pressed me as being absolutely sincere in all that he said. But he 
little knew nor apprehended the sad and lamentable fate then pend 
ing over him. Only a few evenings later, as he was crossing the 
gang-plank between two steamboats at the Landing, in some man 
ner he fell from the plank, and was sucked under the boats by the 
current, and drowned. Some days later a negro found his body, 
lodged against some drift near our side of the river, and he 
brought it in his old cart inside our lines. From papers on the 
body, and other evidence, it was conclusively identified as that of 
Gov. Harvey. The remains were shipped back to Wisconsin, 
where they were given a largely attended and impressive funeral. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE SIEGE OF CORINTH. IN CAMP AT OWL CREEK. 
APRIL AND MAY, 1862. 

A few days after the battle Gen. H. W. Halleck came down 
from St. Louis, and assumed command of the Union forces in the 
field near Pittsburg Landing. Then, or soon thereafter, began the 
so-called siege of Corinth. We mighty near dug up all the country 
within eight or ten miles of that place in the progress of this 
movement, in the construction of forts, long lines of breast-works, 
and such like. Halleck was a "book soldier," and had a high repu 
tation during the war as a profound "strategist," and great mili 
tary genius in general. In fact, in my opinion (and which, I 
think, is sustained by history), he was a humbug and a fraud. 
His idea seemed to be that our war should be conducted strictly in 
accordance with the methods of the old Napoleonic wars of Eu 
rope, which, in the main, were not at all adapted to our time and 
conditions. Moreover, he seemed to be totally deficient in sound, 
practical common sense. Soon after the Confederates evacuated 
Corinth he was transferred to Washington to serve in a sort of 
. advisory capacity, and spent the balance of the war period in a 
swivel-chair in an office. He never was in a battle, and never 
heard # gun fired, except distant cannonading during the Corinth 
business, and (maybe) at Washington in the summer of 1864. 

During the operations against Corinth, the 61st made some 
short marches, and was shifted around, from time to time, to 
different places. About the middle of May we were sent to a point 
on Owl creek, in the right rear of the main army. Our duty there 
was to guard against any possible attack from that direction, and 
our main employment was throwing up breast-works and standing 
* picket. And all this time the sick list was frightfully large. The 



70 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

chief trouble was our old enemy, camp diarrhea, but there were 
also other types of diseases malaria and the like. As before 
stated, the boys had not learned how to cook, nor to take proper 
care of themselves, and to this ignorance can be attributed much of 
the sickness. And the weather was rainy, the camps were muddy 
and gloomy, and about this time many of the boys had home-sick 
ness bad. A genuine case of downright home-sickness is most de 
pressing. I had some touches of it myself, so I can speak from ex 
perience. The poor fellows would sit around in their tents, and 
whine, and talk about home, and what good things they would have 
there to eat, and kindred subjects, until apparently they lost every 
spark of energy. I kept away from such cases all I could, for their 
talk was demoralizing. But one rainy day while in camp at Owl 
creek I was in our big Sibley tent when some of the boys got well 
started on their pet topics. It was a dismal day, the rain was pat 
tering down on the tent and dripping from the leaves of the big 
oak trees in the camp, while inside the tent everything was damp 
and mouldy and didn t smell good either. "Jim," says one, "I wish I 
could jest be down on Coon crick today, and take dinner with old 
Bill Williams ; I ll tell you what I d have : first, a great big slice of 
fried ham, with plenty of rich brown gravy, with them light, fluffy, 
hot biscuits that Bill s wife could cook so well, and then I d want 
some big baked Irish taters, red hot, and all mealy, and then " 
"Yes, Jack," interrupted Jim, "I ve et at old Bill s lots of times, and 
wouldn t I like to be with you? You know, old Bill always mast- 
fed the hogs he put up for his own eatin , they jest fattened on 
hickory nuts and big white- and bur-oak acorns, and he d smoke 
his meat with hickory wood smoke, and oh, that meat was jest so 
sweet and nutty-like! why, the meat of corn-fed hogs was no 
where in comparison." "Yes, Jim," continued Jack, "and then I d 
want with the biscuits and taters plenty of that rich yaller butter 
that Bill s wife made herself, with her own hands, and then you 
know Bill always had lots of honey, and I d spread honey and but 
ter on one of them biscuits, and " "And don t you remember, 
Jack," chimed in Jim, "the mince pies Bill s wife could make? 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 71 

They were jest stuffed with reezons, and all manner of goodies, 
and - But here I left the tent in disgust. I wanted to say, "Oh, 
hell !" as I went out, but refrained. The poor fellows were feeling 
bad enough, anyhow, and it wouldn t have helped matters to make 
sarcastic remarks. But I preferred the shelter of a big tree, and 
enduring the rain that filtered through the leaves, rather than lis 
ten to this distracting talk of Jack and Jim about the flesh-pots of 
old Bill Williams. But while on this subject, I believe I ll tell you 
about a royal dinner I had myself while the regiment was near 
Pittsburg Landing. It was a few days after the battle, while we 
were still at our old camp. I was detailed, as corporal, to take six 
men and go to the Landing and load three or four of our regi 
mental wagons with army rations for our regiment. We reached 
the Landing about ten o clock, reported to the proper officer, who 
showed us our stuff, and we went to piling it into the wagons. It 
consisted of big slabs of fat side-bacon ("sow-belly"), boxes of 
hardtack, sacks of rice, beans, coffee, sugar, and soap and candles. 
I had an idea that I ought to help in the work, and was trying to 
do so, altho so weak from illness that it required some effort to 
walk straight. But a big, black haired, black bearded Irishman, 
Owen McGrath of my company, one of the squad, objected. He laid 
a big hand kindly on my shoulder, and said : "Carparral, yez is not 
sthrong enough for this worrk, and yez don t have to do it, ayether. 
Jist give me the t ority to shupirintind it, and you go sit down." 
"I guess you re right, McGrath," I answered, and then, in a louder 
tone, for the benefit of the detail, "McGrath, you see to the load 
ing of the grub. I am feeling a little out of sorts," (which was 
true,) "and I believe I ll take a rest." McGrath was about thirty 
years old, and a splendid soldier. He had served a term in the 
British army in the old country, and was fully onto his present 
job. (I will tell another little story about him later.) I sat down 
in the shade a short distance from my squad, with my back 
against some big sacks full of something. Suddenly I detected a 
pungent, most agreeable smell. It came from onions, in the sack 
behind me. I took out my pocket knife and stealthily made a hole 



72 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

in that sack, and abstracted two big ones and slipped them into 
my haversack. My conscience didn t trouble me a bit over the 
matter. I reckon those onions were hospital goods, but I thought 
I needed some just as much as anybody in the hospital, which was 
probably correct. I had asked Capt. Reddish that morning if, 
when the wagons were loaded, I could send them on to camp, and 
return at my leisure in the evening, and the kindhearted old man 
had given a cheerful consent. So, when the teams were ready to 
start back, I told McGrath to take charge, and to see that the stuff 
was delivered to our quartermaster, or the commissary sergeant, 
and then I shifted for myself, planning for the good dinner that 
was in prospect. There were many steamboats lying at the Land 
ing, I selected one that looked inviting, went on board, and saun 
tered aft to the cook s quarters. It was near dinner time, and the 
grub dispenser was in the act of taking from his oven a number of 
nice cakes of corn bread. I sidled up to him, and displaying that 
dime the cavalryman gave me for those apples, asked him in a dis 
creetly low tone, if he would let me have a cake of corn bread. He 
gave a friendly grin, pushed a cake towards me, I slipped it in my 
haversack, and handed him the dime. Now I was fixed. I went 
ashore, and down the river for a short distance to a spring I knew 
of, that bubbled from the ground near the foot of a big beech tree. 
It did not take long to build a little fire and make coffee in my 
oyster can of a quart s capacity, with a wire bale attachment. 
Then a slice of sow-belly was toasted on a stick, the outer skin of 
the onions removed and dinner was ready. Talk about your gas 
tronomic feasts! I doubt if ever in my life I enjoyed a meal bet 
ter than this one, under that old beech, by the Tennessee river. 
The onions were big red ones, and fearfully strong, but my system 
craved them so much that I just chomped them down as if they 
were apples. And every crumb of the corn bread was eaten, too. 
Dinner over, I felt better, and roamed around the rest of the 
afternoon, sight-seeing, and didn t get back to camp till nearly sun 
down. By the way, that spring and that beech tree are there yet, 
or were in October, 1914, when I visited the Shiloh battlefield. I 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 73 

hunted them up on this occasion and laid down on the ground and 
took a long, big drink out of the spring for the sake of old times. 
Taking up again the thread of our life in camp at Owl creek, 
I will say that when there I was for a while in bad physical condi 
tion, and nearly "all in." One day I accidentally overheard two in 
telligent boys of my company talking about me, and one said, "If 
Stillwell aint sent north purty soon, he s goin to make a die of it;" 
to which the other assented. That scared me good, and set me to 
thinking. I had no use for the hospital, wouldn t go there, and 
abominated the idea of taking medicine. But I was so bad off I 
was not marked for duty, my time was all my own, so I concluded 
to get out of camp as much as possible, and take long walks in the 
big woods. I found a place down on the creek between two picket 
posts where it was easy to sneak through and get out into the 
country, and I proceeded to take advantage of it. It was where a 
big tree had fallen across the stream, making a sort of natural 
bridge, and I "run the line" there many a time. It was delightful 
to get out into the clean, grand old woods, and away from the mud, 
and filth, and bad smells of the camp, and my health began to im 
prove. On some of these rambles, Frank Gates, a corporal of my 
company, was my companion. He was my senior a few years, a 
lively fellow, with a streak of humor in him, and was good com 
pany. One day on one of our jaunts we came to a little old log 
house near the foot of a densely timbered ridge. There was no 
body at home save some women and children, and one of the wom 
en was engaged on an old-fashioned churn, churning butter. Mul 
berries were ripe, and there was a large tree in the yard fairly 
black with the ripe fruit. We asked the women if we could eat 
some of the berries, and they gave a cheerful consent. Thereupon 
Frank and I climbed the tree, and proceeded to help ourselves. 
The berries were big, dead ripe, and tasted mighty good, and 
we just stuffed ourselves until we could hold no more. The churn 
ing was finished by the time we descended from the tree, and we 
asked for some buttermilk. The women gave us a gourd dipper 
and told us to help ourselves, which we did, and drank copiously 



74 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and greedily. We then resumed our stroll, but before long were 
seized with most horrible pains in our stomachs. We laid down on 
the ground and rolled over and over in agony. It was a hot day, 
we had been walking rapidly, and it is probable that the mulber 
ries and the buttermilk were in a state of insurrection. But Fhink 
didn t think so. As he rolled over the ground with his hands on 

his bulging stomach he exclaimed to me, "Lee, by , I believe 

them - - Secesh wimmen have pizened us !" At the time I hard 
ly knew what to think, but relief came at last. I will omit the 
details. When able to navigate, we started back to camp, almost 
as weak and helpless as a brace of sick kittens. After that I 
steered clear of any sort of a combination of berries and butter 
milk. 

Soon after this Frank and I had another adventure outside 
the picket lines, but of an amusing nature only. We came to an old 
log house where, as was usual at this time and locality, the only oc 
cupants were women and children. The family consisted of the 
middle-aged mother, a tall, slab-sided, long legged girl, seemingly 
sixteen or seventeen years old, and some little children. Their sur 
name was Leadbetter, which I have always remembered by reason 
of the incident I will mention. The house was a typical pioneer 
cabin, with a puncheon floor, which was uneven, dirty, and 
splotched with grease. The girl was bare-footed and wearing a 
dirty white sort of cotton gown of the modern Mother Hubbard 
type, that looked a good deal like a big gunny sack. From what 
came under my observation later, it can safely be stated that it was 
the only garment she had on. She really was not bad looking, only 
dirty and mighty slouchy. We wanted some butter, and asked the 
matron if she had any she could sell us. She replied that they 
were just going to churn, and if we d wait until that was done, 
she could furnish us a little. We waited, and when the job was fin 
ished, handed the girl a pint tin cup we had brought along, which 
she proceeded to fill with the butter. As she walked towards us to 
hand over the cup, her bare feet slipped on a grease spot on the 
floor, and down she went on her back, with her gown distinctly 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 75 

elevated, and a prodigal display of limbs. At the same time the 
cup fell from her grasp, and the contents rolled out on the dirty 
floor, like melted lard. The girl arose to a sitting posture, sur 
veyed the wreck, then laid down on one side, and exploded with 
laughter and kicked. About this time her mother appeared on 
the scene. "Why, Sal Leadbetter!" she exclaimed, "you dirty slut! 
Git a spoon and scrape that butter right up !" Sal rose (cow 
fashion) to her feet, still giggling over the mishap, and the butter 
was duly "scraped" up, restored to the cup, and this time safely de 
livered. We paid for the "dairy product," and left, but I told 
Frank I wanted none of it in mine. Frank responded in SUD- 
stance, that it was all right, every man had to eat his "peck of 
dirt" in his life time anyway, and the incident was closed. I 
never again saw nor heard of the Leadbetter family from that 
day, but have often wondered what finally became of poor "Sal." 

While we were at Owl creek the medical authorities of the 
army put in operation a method for the prevention and cure of ma 
laria that was highly popular with some of the boys. It consisted 
of a gill of whisky, largely compounded with quinine, and was 
given to each man before breakfast. I drank my first "jigger," as 
it was called, and then quit. It was too intensely bitter for my 
taste, and I would secretly slip my allowance to John Barton, or 
Frank Burnham, who would have drunk it, I reckon, if it had been 
one-half aqua fortis. I happened to be mixed up in an incident 
rather mortifying to me, when the first whisky rations were 
brought to the regimental hospital in our camp for use in the above 
manner. The quartermaster came to Capt. Reddish and handed 
him a requisition for two camp kettlefuls of whisky, and told him 
to give it to two non-commissioned officers of his company who 
were strictly temperate and absolutely reliable, and order them to 
go to the Division commissary headquarters, get the whisky, bring 
it to camp, and deliver it to him, the quartermaster. Capt. Red 
dish selected for this delicate duty Corporal Tim Gates (a brother 
of Frank, above mentioned) and myself. Tim was about ten years 
my senior, a tall, slim fellow, and somewhat addicted to stuttering 



76 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

when he became nervous or excited. Well, we each procured a big 
camp kettle, went and got the whisky, and started back with it to 
camp. On the way we passed through a space where a large num 
ber of army wagons were parked, and when we were in about the 
middle of the park were then out of sight of everybody. Here Tim 
stopped, looked carefully around to see if the coast was clear, and 
then said, "Sti-Sti-Stillwell, 1-1-less t-t-take a swig!" "All right," 
I responded. Thereupon Tim poised his camp-kettle on a wagon 
hub, inclined the brim to his lips, and took a most copious draught, 
and I followed suit. We then started on, and it was lucky, for me 
at any rate, that we didn t have far to go. I hadn t previously 
during my army career taken a swallow of whisky since one time 
at Camp Carrollton; I was weak and feeble, and this big drink of 
the stuff went through my veins like electricity-. Its effects were 
felt almost instantly, and by the time we reached camp, and had 
delivered the whisky; I was feeing a good deal like a wild Indian 
on the war path. I wanted to yell, to get my musket and shoot, 
especially at something that when hit would jingle a looking- 
glass, an eight-day clock, or a boat s chandelier, or something simi 
lar. But it suddenly occurred to me that I was drunk, and liable to 
forever disgrace myself, and everybody at home, too. I had just 
sense enough left to know that the thing to do was to get out of 
camp at once, so I struck for the woods. In passing the tent of my 
squad, I caught a glimpse of Tim therein. He had thrown his cap 
and jacket on the ground, rolled up his sleeves, and was furiously 
challenging another fellow to then and there settle an old-time 
grudge by the "ordeal of battle." I didn t tarry, but hurried on the 
best I could, finally got into a secluded patch of brush, and tumbled 
down. I came to my senses along late in the evening, with a split 
ting headache, and feeling awful generally, but reasonably sober. 
And such was the conduct, when trusted with whisky, of the 
two non-commissioned officers of Co. D, "men who were strictly 
temperate and absolutely reliable." But Tim had no trouble about 
his break. I suppose he gave some plausible explanation, and as 
for me, I had lived up to the standard, so far as the public knew, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 77 

and maintained a profound silence in regard to the episode. Tim 
and I in private conversation, or otherwise, both carefully avoided 
the subject until the time came when we could talk and laugh about 
it without any danger of "tarnishing our escutcheons." 

In the meantime the alleged siege of Corinth was proceeding 
in the leisurely manner that characterized the progress of a suit in 
chancery under the ancient equity methods. From our camp on 
Owl creek we could hear, from time to time, sporadic outbursts of 
cannonading, but we became so accustomed to it that the artillery 
practice ceased to excite any special attention. The Confederates 
began quietly evacuating the place during the last days of May, 
completed the operation on the 30th of the month, and on the 
evening of that day our troops marched into the town unopposed. 



78 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER VI. 



BETHEL. JACKSON. JUNE AND JULY, 1862. 

Soon after our occupation of Corinth a change in the position 
of our forces took place, and all the command at Owl creek was 
transferred to Bethel, a small station on the Mobile and Ohio rail 
road, some twenty or twenty-five miles to the northwest. We left 
Owl creek on the morning of June 6th, and arrived at Bethel about 
dark the same evening. Thanks to my repeated long walks in the 
woods outside of our lines, I was in pretty fair health at this time, 
but still somewhat weak and shaky. On the morning we took up 
the line of march, while waiting for the "fall in" call, I was seated 
at the foot of a big tree in camp, with my knapsack, packed, at my 
side. Enoch Wallace came to me and said : "Stillwell, are you go 
ing to try to carry your knapsack ?" I answered that I reckoned I 
had to, that I had asked Hen. King (our company teamster) to 
let me put it in his wagon, and he wouldn t, said he already had 
too big a load. Enoch said nothing more, but stood silently look 
ing down at me a few seconds, then picked up my knapsack and 
threw it into our wagon, which was close by, saying to King, as he 
did so, "Haul that knapsack ;" - and it was hauled. I shall 
never forget this act of kindness on the part of Enoch. It would 
have been impossible for me to have made the march carrying the 
knapsack. The day was hot, and much of the road wr.s over sandy 
land, and through long stretches of black-jack barrens, that ex 
cluded every breath of a breeze. The men suffered much on the 
march, and fell out by scores. When we stacked arms at Bethel 
that evening, there were only four men of Co. D in line, just 
enough to make one stack of guns, but my gun was in the stack. 

There was no earthly necessity for making this march in one 
day. We were simply "changing stations ;" the Confederate army 
of that region was down in Mississippi, a hundred miles or so 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 79 

away, and there were no armed foes in our vicinity excepting some 
skulking bands of guerrillas. Prior to this our regiment had made 
no marches, except little short movements during the siege of Cor 
inth, none of which exceeded two or three miles. And nearly all 
the men were weak and debilitated by reason of the prevailing 
type of illness, and in no condition whatever to be cracked through 
twenty miles or more on a hot day. We should have marched only 
about ten miles the first day, with a halt of about ten minutes every 
hour, to let the men rest a little, and get their wind. Had that 
course been pursued, we would have reached our destination in 
good shape, with the ranks full, and the men would have been 
benefited by the march. As it was, it probably caused the death of 
some, and the permanent disabling of more. The trouble at that 
time was the total want of experience on the part of the most of 
our officers of all grades, combined with an amazing lack of com 
mon sense by some of high authority. I am not blaming any of 
our regimental officers for this foolish "forced march," for it 
amounted to that, the responsibility rested higher up. 

Our stay at Bethel was brief and uneventful. However, I 
shall always remember the place on account of a piece of news 
that came to me while we were there, and which for a time nearly 
broke me all up. It will be necessary to go back some years in or 
der to explain it. I began attending the old Stone school house at 
Otter creek when I was about eight years old. One of my school 
mates was a remarkably pretty little girl, with blue eyes and au 
burn hair, nearly my own age. We kept about the same place in 
our studies, and were generally in the same classes. I always liked 
her, end by the time I was about fifteen years old was head over 
heels in love. She was far above me in the social scale of the 
neighborhood. Her folks lived in a frame house on "the other side 
of the creek," and were well-to-do, for that time and locality. My 
people lived in a log cabin, on a little farm in the broken country 
that extended from the south bank of Otter creek to the Missis 
sippi and Illinois rivers. But notwithstanding the difference in 
our respective social and financial positions, I knew that she had a 



80 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

liking for me, and our mutual relations became quite "tender" and 
interesting. Then the war came along, I enlisted and went South. 
We had no correspondence after I left home; I was just too de 
plorably bashful to attempt it, and, on general principles, didn t 
have sense enough to properly carry on a proceeding of that na 
ture. It may be that here was where I fell down. But I thought 
about her every day, and had many boyish day dreams of the fu 
ture, in which she was the prominent figure. Soon after our ar 
rival at Bethel I received a letter from home. I hurriedly opened 
it, anxious, as usual, to hear from the folks, and sitting down at 
the foot of a tree, began reading it. All went well to nearly the 
close, when I read these fatal words : 

"Billy Crane and Lucy Archer got married last week." 
The above names are fictitious, but the bride was my girl. 

I can t explain my feelings, if you ever have had such an ex 
perience, you will understand. I stole a hurried glance around to 
see if anybody was observing my demeanor, then thrust the letter 
into my jacket pocket, and walked away. ^ Not far from our camp 
was a stretch of swampy land, thickly set with big cypress trees, 
and I bent my steps in that direction. Entering the forest, I sought 
a secluded spot, sat down on an old log, and read and re-read that 
heart-breaking piece of intelligence. There was no mistaking the 
words; they were plain, laconic, and nothing ambiguous about 
them. And, to intensify the bitterness of the draught, it may be 
set down here that the groom was a dudish young squirt, a clerk 
in a country store, who lacked the pluck to go for a soldier, but 
had stayed at home to count eggs and measure calico. In my opin 
ion, he was not worthy of the girl, and I was amazed that she had 
taken him for a husband. I remember well some of my thoughts 
as I sat with bitterness in my heart, alone among those gloomy cy 
presses. I wanted a great big battle to come off at once, with the 
61st Illinois right in front, that we might run out of cartridges, 
and the order would be given to fix bayonets and charge! Like 
Major Simon Suggs, in depicting the horrors of an apprehended 
Indian war, I wanted to see blood flow in a "great gulgin torrent, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 81 

like the Tallapoosa river." Well, it was simply a case of pure, in 
tensely ardent boy-love, and I was hit, hard, but survived. And 
I now heartily congratulate myself on the fact that this youthful 
shipwreck ultimately resulted in my obtaining for a wife the very 
best woman (excepting only my mother) that I ever knew in my 
life. 

I never again met my youthful flame, to speak to her, and saw 
her only once, and then at a distance, some years after the close of 
the war when I was back in Illinois on a visit to my parents. Sev 
eral years ago her husband died, and in course of time she married 
again, this time a man I never knew, and the last I heard of or 
concerning her, she and her second husband were living some 
where in one of the Rocky Mountain States. 

For a short time after the evacuation of Corinth, Pittsburg 
Landing continued to be our base of supplies, and commissary 
stores were wagoned from there to the various places where our 
troops were stationed. And it happened, while the regiment was 
at Bethel, that I was one of a party of about a hundred men de 
tailed to serve as guards for a wagon train destined for the Land 
ing, and, return to Bethel with army rations. There was at the 
Landing at this time, serving as guards for the government stores, 
a regiment of infantry. There were only a few of them visible, 
and they looked pale and emaciated, and much like "dead men on 
their feet." I asked one of them what regiment was stationed 
there, and he told me it was the 14th Wisconsin Infantry. This 
was the one I had seen at Benton Barracks and admired so much on 
account of the splendid appearance of the men. I mentioned this 
to the soldier, and expressed to him my surprise to now see them 
in such bad shape. He went on to tell me that the men had suf- 
freed fearfully from the change of climate, the water, and their 
altered conditions in general; that they had nearly all been pros 
trated by camp diarrhea, and at that time there were not more 
than a hundred men in the regiment fit for duty, and even those 
were not much better than shadows of their former selves. And, 
judging from the few men that were visible, the soldier told the 



82 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

plain, unvarnished truth. Our regiment and the 14th Wisconsin 
soon drifted apart, and I never saw it again. But as a matter of 
history, I will say that it made an excellent and distinguished rec 
ord during the war. 

On June 16 our brigade left Bethel for Jackson, Tennessee, a 
town on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, and about thirty-five or forty 
miles, by the dirt road, northwest of Bethel. On this march, like 
the preceding one, I did not carry my knapsack. It was about this 
time that the most of the boys adopted the "blanket-roll" system. 
Our knapsacks were awkward, cumbersome things, with a com 
bination of straps and buckles that chafed the shoulders and back, 
and greatly augmented heat and general discomfort. So we would 
fold in our blankets an extra shirt, with a few other light articles, 
roll the blanket tight, double it over and tie the two ends together, 
then throw the blanket over one shoulder, with the tied ends under 
the opposite arm and the arrangement was complete. We had 
learned by this time the necessity of reducing our personal bag 
gage to the lightest possible limit. We had left Camp Carrollton 
with great bulging knapsacks, stuffed with all sorts of plunder, 
much of which was utterly useless to soldiers in the field. But we 
soon got rid of -all that. And my recollection is that after the 
Bethel march the great majority of the men would, in some way, 
when on a march, temporarily lay aside their knapsacks, and use 
the blanket roll. The exceptions to that method, in the main, were 
the soldiers of foreign birth, especially the Germans. They carried 
theirs to the last on all occasions, with everything in them the 
army regulations would permit, and usually something more. 

Jackson, our objective point on this march, was the county 
seat of Madison county, and a portion of our line of march was 
through the south part of the county. This region had a singular 
interest for me, the nature of which I will now state. Among the 
few books we had at home was an old paper-covered copy, with 
horrible wood-cuts, of a production entitled, "The Life and Adven 
tures of John A. Murrell, the Great Western Land Pirate," by Vir 
gil A. Stewart. It was full of accounts of cold-blooded, depraved 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 83 

murders, and other vicious, unlawful doings. My father had known, 
in his younger days, a good deal of Murrell by reputation, which 
was probably the moving cause for his purchase of the book. 
When a little chap I frequently read it and it possessed for me a 
sort of weird, uncanny fascination. Murrell s home, and the thea 
ter of many of his evil deeds, during the year 1834, and for some 
time previously, was in this county of Madison, and as we 
trudged along the road on this march I scanned all the surround 
ings with deep interest and close attention. Much of the country 
was rough and broken, and densely wooded, with high ridges and 
deep ravines between them. With the aid of a lively imagination, 
many places I noticed seemed like fitting localities for acts of vio 
lence and crime. 

I have in my possession now (bought many years ago) a du 
plicate of that old copy of Murrell we had at home. I sometimes 
look into it, but it no longer possesses for me the interest it did in 
my boyhood days. 

On this march I was a participant in an incident which was 
somewhat amusing, and also a little bit irritating. Shortly before 
noon of the first day, Jack Medford, of my company, a^id mv^elf, 
concluded we would "straggle," and try to get a country dinner. 
Availing ourselves of the first favorable opportun : ty, we sl : pped 
from the ranks, and struck out. We followed an old country road 
that ran substantially parallel to the main road on wh : ch the col 
umn was marching, and soon came to a nice looking old log house 
standing in a grove of big native treei. The only peep e at the 
house were two middle-aged women and some children. We a ked 
the women if we could have some dinner, saying that we would pay 
for it. They gave an affirmative answer, but their tone was not 
cordial and they looked "daggers." Dinner was just about pre 
pared, and when all was ready, we were invited, with evident coo 1 - 
ness, to take seats at the table. We had a splendid meal, consist 
ing of corn bread, new Irish potatoes, boi ed bacon and greens, 
butter and buttermilk. Compared with sow-belly and hardtack, it 
was a feast. Dinner over, we essayed to pay therefor. Their 



84 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

v rs* 

charge was something less than a dollar for both of us, but we had 
not the exact change. The smallest denomination of money either 
of us had was a dollar greenback, and the women said that they 
had no money at all to make change. Thereupon we proffered them 
the entire dollar. They looked at it askance, and asked if we had 
any "Southern" or Confederate money. We said we had not, that 
this was the only kind of money ^we had. They continued to look 
exceedingly sour, and finally remarked that they were unwilling 
to accept any kind of money except "Southern." We urged them to 
accept the bill, told them it was United States money, and that it 
would pass readily in any place in the South occupied by our sol 
diers; but no, they were obdurate, and declined the greenback with 
unmistakable scorn. Of course, we kept our temper ; it never would 
have done to be saucy or rude after getting such a good dinner, 
but, for my part, I felt considerably vexed. But there was nothing 
left to do except thank them heartily for their kindness and depart. 
From their standpoint their course in the matter was actuated by 
the highest and most unselfish patriotism, but naturally we couldn t 
look at it in that light. I wi 1 ! say here, "with malice towards none, 
and with chanty for all," that in my entire sojourn in the South 
during the war, the women were found to be more intensely bitter 
and malignant against the old government of the United States, 
and the national cause in general, than were the men. Their atti 
tude is probably another illustration of the truth of Kipling s say 
ing, "The female of the species is more deadly than the male." 

We arrived at Jackson on the evening of June 17, and went 
into camp in the outskirts of the town, in a beautiful grove of tall 
young oaks. The site was neither too shady nor too sunny, and, all 
things considered, I think it was about the nicest camping ground 
the regiment had during its entire service. We settled down here 
to a daily round of battalion drill, being the first of that character, 
as I now remember, we had so far had. A battalion drill is simply 
one where the various companies are handled as a regimental 
unit, and are put through regimental evolutions. Battalion drill 
at first was frequently very embarrassing to some commanding of- 



THE1STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 85 

ficers of companies. The regimental commander would give a com 
mand, indicating, in general terms, the movement desired, and it 
was then the duty of a company commander to see to the details of 
the movement that his company should make, and give the proper 
orders. Well, sometimes he would be badly stumped, and ludicrous 
"bobbles" would be the result. As for the men in the ranks, battal 
ion drill was as simple as any other, for we only had to obey specific 
commands which indicated exactly what we were to do. To "form 
square," an antique disposition against cavalry, was a movement 
that was especially "trying" to some company officers. But so far 
as forming square was concerned, all our drill on that feature was 
time thrown away. In actual battle we never made that disposi 
tion a single time and the same is true of several other labored 
and intricate movements prescribed in the tactics, and which we 
were industriously put through. But it was good exercise, and "all 
went in the day s work." 

While thus amusing ourselves at battalion drill suddenly came 
marching orders, and which required immediate execution. Tents 
were forthwith struck, rolled and tied, and loaded in the wagons, 
with all other camp and garrison equipage. Our knapsacks were 
packed with all our effects, since special instructions had been given 
on that matter. Curiosity was on the qui vive to know where we 
were going, but apart from the fact that we were to be transported 
on the cars, apparently nobody knew whither we were bound. Col. 
Fry was absent, sick, and Major Ohr was then in command of the 
regiment. He was a fine officer, and, withal, a very sensible man, 
and I doubt if any one in^the regiment except himself had reliable 
knowledge as to our ultimate destination. As soon as our march 
ing preparations were complete, which did not take long, the bugle 
sounded "Fall in !" and the regiment formed in line on the parade 
ground. In my "mind s eye" I can now see Major Ohr in our front, 
on his horse, his blanket strapped behind his saddle, smoking his 
little briar root pipe, and looking as cool and unconcerned as if we 
were only going a few miles for a change of camp. Our entire 
brigade fell in, and so far as we could see, or learn, all of the 



86 . THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

division at Jackson, then under the command of Gen. John A. 
McClernand, was doing likewise. Well, we stood there in line, at 
ordered arms, and waited. We expected, every moment, to hear the 
orders which would put us in motion but they were never given. 
Finally we were ordered to stack arms and break ranks, but were 
cautioned to hold ourselves in readiness to fall in at the tap of the 
drum. But the day wore on and nothing was done until late in the 
evening, when the summons came. We rushed to the gun stacks 
and took arms. The Major had a brief talk with the company of 
ficers, and then, to our great surprise, the companies were marched 
back to their dismantled camps, and after being instructed to stay 
close thereto, were dismissed. This state of affairs lasted for at 
least two days, and then collapsed. We were told that the orders 
had been countermanded; we unloaded our tents, pitched them 
again on the old sites, and resumed battalion drill. It was then 
gossiped around among the boys that we actually had been under 
marching orders for Virginia to reinforce the Army of the Poto 
mac! Personally I looked on that as mere "camp talk," and put 
no confidence in it, and never found out, until about fifteen years 
later, that this rumor was a fact. I learned it in this wise : About 
nine years after the close of the war, Congress passed an act pro 
viding for the publication, in book form, of all the records, re 
ports, correspondence, and the like, of both the Union and Confed 
erate armies. Under this law, about one hundred and thirty large 
volumes were published, containing the matter above stated. 
When the law was passed I managed to arrange to procure a set 
of these Records and they were sent to me from Washington as 
fast as printed. And from one of these volumes I ascertained that 
on June 28, 1862, E. M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, had tele 
graphed Gen. Halleck (who was then in command of the western 
armies) as follows: 

"It is absolutely necessary for you immediately to de 
tach 25,000 of your force, and send it by the nearest and 
quickest route by way of Baltimore and Washington to 
Richmond. [This] is rendered imperative by a serious re- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

verse suffered by Gen. McClellan before Richmond yester 
day, the full extent of which is not known." (Rebellion 
Records, Series 1, Vol. 16, Part 2, pp. 69 and 70.) 
In obedience to the above, General Haileck wired General Mc- 
Clernand on June 30 as follows: 

"You will collect as rapidly as possible all the infan 
try regiments of your division, and take advantage of 
every train to transport them to Columbus [Ky.J and 
thence to Washington City." (Id. p. 76.) 

But that same day (June 30) a telegram was sent by President 
Lincoln to Gen. Haileck, which operated to revoke the foregoing 
order of Stanton s and so the 61st Illinois never became a part 
of the Army of the Potomac, and for which I am very thankful. 
That army was composed of brave men, and they fought long and 
well, but, in my opinion, and which I think is sustained by history, 
they never had a competent commander until they got U. S. 
Grant. So, up to the coming of Grant, their record, in the main, 
was a series of bloody disasters, and their few victories, like Antie- 
tam and Gettysburg, were not properly and energetically followed 
up as they should have been, and hence were largely barren of 
adequate results. Considering these things, I have always some 
how "felt it in my bones" that if Mr. Lincoln had not sent the 
brief telegram above mentioned, I would now be sleeping in some 
(probably) unmarked and unknown grave away back in old Vir 
ginia. 

While at Jackson an incident occurred while I was on picket 
in which Owen McGrath, the big Irishman I have previously men 
tioned, played an interesting part. As corporal I had three men 
under me, McGrath being one, and the others were a couple of big, 
burly young fellows belonging to Co. A. Our post was on the rail 
road a mile or two from the outskirts of Jackson, and where the 
picket line for some distance ran practically parallel with the rail 
road. The spot at this post where the picket stood when on guard 
was at the top of a bank on the summit of a slight elevation, just 
at the edge of a deep and narrow railroad cut. A bunch of guer- 



88 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

rillas had recently been operating in that locality, and making 
mischief on a small scale, and our orders were to be vigilant and 
on the alert, especially at night. McGrath was on duty from 6 to 
8 in the evening, and at the latter hour I notified one of the Co. A 
men that his turn had come. The weather was bad, a high wind 
was blowing, accompanied by a drizzling rain, and all signs por 
tended a stormy night. The Co. A fellow buckled on his cartridge 
box, picked up his musket, and gave a scowling glance at the sur 
roundings. Then, with much profanity, he declared that he wasn t 
going to stand up on that bank, he was going down into the cut, 
where he could have some shelter from the wind and rain. I told 
him that would never do, that there he could see nothing in our 
front, and might as well not be on guard at all. But he loudly an 
nounced his intention to stick to his purpose. The other Co. A 
man chimed in, and with many expletives declared that Bill was 
right, that he intended to stand in the cut too when his time came, 
that he didn t believe there was a Secesh within a hundred miles 
of us, anyway, and so on. I was sorely troubled, and didn t know 
what to do. They were big, hulking fellows, and either could have 
just smashed me, with one hand tied behind him. McGrath had 
been intently listening to the conversation, and saying nothing, 
but, as matters were evidently nearing a crisis, he now took a 
hand. Walking up to the man who was to relieve him, he laid the 
forefinger of his right hand on the fellow s breast, and looking him 
square in the eyes, spoke thus: 

"It s the ar-r-dhers of the car-r-parral that the sintry stand 
here," (indicating,) "and the car-r-parral s ar-r-dhers will be 
obeyed. D ye moind that, now ?" 

I had stepped to the side of McGrath while he was talking, to 
give him my moral support, at least, and fixed my eyes on the mu 
tineer. He looked at us in silence a second or two, and then, with 
some muttering about the corporal being awful particular, finally 
said he could stand it if the rest could, assumed his post at the top 
of the bank, and the matter was ended. The storm blew over be 
fore midnight and the weather cleared up. In the morning we had 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 89 

a satisfying soldier breakfast, and when relieved at 9 o clock 
marched back to camp with the others of the old guard, all in good 
humor, and with "peace and harmony prevailing." But I always 
felt profoundly grateful to grand old McGrath for his staunch sup 
port on the foregoing occasion ; without it, I don t know what could 
have been done. 



90 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER VII. 

BOLIVAR. JULY, AUGUST, AND SEPTEMBER, 1862. 

On July 17 our brigade, then under the command of Gen. L. F. 
Ross, left Jackson for Bolivar, Tennessee, a town about twenty- 
eight miles southwest of Jackson, on what was then called the 
Mississippi Central Railroad. (Here I will observe that the sketch 
of the regiment before mentioned in the Illinois Adjutant General s 
Reports is wrong as to the date of our departure from Jackson. It 
is inferable from the statement in the Reports that the time was 
June 17, which really was the date of our arrival there from Beth 
el.) We started from Jackson at about four o clock in the morn 
ing, but marched only about eight miles when we were brought to 
an abrupt halt, caused by the breaking down, under the weight of 
a cannon and its carriage, of an ancient Tennessee bridge over 
a little stream. The nature of the crossing was such that the 
bridge simply had to be rebuilt, and made strong enough to sus 
tain the artillery and army wagons, and it took the balance of the 
day to do it. We therefore bivouacked at the point where we stop 
ped until the next morning. Soon after the halt a hard rain began 
falling, and lasted all afternoon. We had no shelter, and just had 
to take it, and "let it rain." But it was in the middle of the sum 
mer, the weather was hot, and the boys stood around, some crow 
ing like chickens, and others quacking like ducks, and really seemed 
to rather enjoy the situation. About the only drawback resulting 
from our being caught out in the summer rains was the fact that 
the water would rust our muskets. In our time we were required 
to keep all their metal parts (except the butt-plate) as bright and 
shining as new silver dollars. I have put in many an hour working 
on my gun with an old rag and powdered dirt, and a corncob, or 
pine stick, polishing the barrel, the bands, lock-plate, and trigger- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 91 

guard, until they were fit to pass inspection. The inside of the 
barrel we would keep clean by the use of a greased wiper and 
plenty of hot water. In doing this, we would ordinarily, with our 
screw-drivers, take the gun to pieces, and remove from the stock 
all metallic parts. I never had any head for machinery, of any 
kind, but, from sheer necessity, did acquire enough of the faculty 
to take apart, and put together, an army musket, and that is 
about the full extent of my ability in that line. We soon learned 
to take care of our pieces in a rain by thoroughly greasing them 
with a piece of bacon, which would largely prevent rust from strik 
ing in. 

We resumed our march to Bolivar early in the morning of the 
18th. Our route was practically parallel with the railroad, cross 
ing it occasionally. At one of these crossings, late in the after 
noon, and when only five or six miles from Bolivar, I "straggled" 
again, and took to the railroad. I soon fell in with three Co. C 
boys, who had done likewise. We concluded we would endeavor 
to get a country supper, and with that in view, an hour or so be 
fore sundown went to a nice looking farm-house not far from the 
railroad, and made our wants known to the occupants. We had se 
lected for our spokesman the oldest one of our bunch, a soldier per 
haps twenty-five years old, named Aleck Cope. He was something 
over six feet tall, and about as gaunt as a sand-hill crane. He was 
bare-footed, and his feet, in color and general appearance, looked 
a good deal like the flappers of an alligator. His entire garb, on 
this occasion, consisted of an old wool hat and his government 
shirt and drawers. The latter garment, like the "cuttie sark" of 
witch Nannie in "Tarn O Shanter," "in longitude was sorely scanty," 
coming only a little below his knees, and both habiliments would 
have been much improved by a thorough washing. But in the duty 
assigned him he acquitted himself well with the people of the 
house, and they very cheerfully said they would prepare us a sup 
per. They seemingly were well-to-do, as several colored men and 
women were about the premises, who, of course, were slaves. Soon 
were audible the death squawks of chickens in the barn-yard, which 



92 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

we heard with much satisfaction. In due time supper was an 
nounced, and we seated ourselves at the table. And what a ban 
quet we had ! Fried chicken, nice hot biscuits, butter, butter-milk, 
honey, (think of that!) preserved peaches, fresh cucumber pickles, 
and so forth. And a colored house-girl moved back and forth be 
hind us, keeping off the flies with a big peacock-feather brush. 
Aleck Cope sat opposite me, and when the girl was performing that 
office for him, the situation looked so intensely ludicrous that I 
wanted to scream. Supper over, we paid the bill, which was quite 
reasonable, and went on our way rejoicing, and reached Bolivar 
soon after dark, about the same time the regiment did. But it will 
now be set down that this was the last occasion when I "straggled" 
on a march. A day or so after arriving at Bolivar the word came 
to me in some way, I think from Enoch Wallace, that our first 
lieutenant, Dan Keeley, had spoken disapprovingly of my conduct 
in that regard. He was a young man, about twenty-five years old, 
of education and refinement, and all things considered, the best 
company officer we had. I was much attached to him, and I know 
that he liked me. Well, I learned that he had said, in substance, 
that a non-commissioned officer should set a good example to the 
men in all things, and that he hadn t expected of Stillwell that he 
would desert the ranks on a march. That settled the matter. My 
conduct had simply been thoughtless, without any shirking inten 
tions, but I then realized that it was wrong, and, as already stated, 
straggled no more. 

We went into camp at Bolivar a little south of the town, in a 
grove of scattered big oak trees. A few days after our arrival a 
good-sized body of Confederate cavalry, under the command of Gen. 
Frank C. Armstrong, moved up from the south, and began operat 
ing near Bolivar and vicinity. Our force there was comparative 
ly small, and, according to history, we were, for a time, in consid 
erable danger of being "gobbled up," but of that we common sol 
diers knew nothing. Large details were at once put to work 
throwing up breast-works, while the men not on that duty were 
kept in line of battle, or with their guns in stack on the line, and 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 93 

strictly cautioned to remain close at hand, and ready to fall in at 
the tap of a drum. This state of things continued for some days, 
then the trouble would seemingly blow over, and later would break 
out again. While we were thus on the ragged edge, and expecting 
a battle almost any hour, a little incident occurred which somehow 
made on me a deep and peculiar impression. To explain it fully, I 
must go back to our first days at Pittsburg Landing. A day or two 
after our arrival there, Lt. Keeley said to me that the regimental 
color guard, to consist of a sergeant and eight corporals, was be 
ing formed, that Co. D had been called on for a corporal for that 
duty, and that I should report to Maj. Ohr for instructions. Nat 
urally I felt quite proud over this, and forthwith reported to the 
Major, at his tent, and stated my business. He looked at me in 
silence, and closely, for a few seconds, and then remarked, in sub 
stance, that I could go to my quarters, and if needed, would be no 
tified later. This puzzled me somewhat, but I supposed it would 
come out all right in due time. There was a corporal in our com 
pany to whom I will give a fictitious name, and call him Sam Cobb. 
He was a big, fine looking fellow, and somewhere between twenty- 
five and thirty years old. And an hour or two after my dismissal 
by Maj. Ohr, I heard Sam loudly proclaiming, with many fierce 
oaths, to a little group of Co. D. boys, that he "had been promoted." 

That he was a "color corporal, by !" This announcement was 

accompanied by sundry vociferous statements in regard to Maj. 
Ohr knowing exactly the kind of men to get to guard the colors of 
the regiment in time of battle, and so on, and so on. I heard all 
this with mortification and bitterness of spirit. The reason now 
dawned on me why I had been rejected. I was only a boy, rather 
small for my age, and at this time feeble in appearance. Maj. 
Ohr, quite properly, wanted strong, stalwart, fine looking men for 
the color guard. A little reflection convinced me that he was right, 
and could not be blamed for his action. But he found out later, (in 
this particular case, at least) that something more than a fine ap 
pearance was required to make a soldier. Only two or three days 
after Sam s "promotion," came the battle of Shiloh, and at the 



94 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

very first volley the regiment received, he threw down his gun, and 
ran like a whipped cur. The straps and buckles of his cartridge 
box were new and stiff, so he didn t take the time to release them in 
the ordinary way, but whipped out his jack-knife and cut them as 
he ran. I did not see this personally, but was told it by boys who 
did. We saw no more of Sam until after the battle, when he 
sneaked into camp, with a fantastic story of getting separated 
from the regiment in a fall-back movement, that he then joined 
another, fought both days, and performed prodigies of valor. But 
there were too many that saw the manner of his alleged "separa 
tion" for his story ever to be believed. 

I will now return to the Bolivar incident. While the Confed 
erates were operating in the vicinity of this place, as above men 
tioned, the fall in" -call was sounded one evening after dark, and 
the regiment promptly formed in line on the parade ground. We 
remained there an hour or so, when finally the command was given 
to stack arms, and the men were dismissed with orders to hold 
themselves in readiness to form in line, on the parade grounds, at 
a moment s warning. As I was walking back to our company 
quarters, Sam Cobb stepped up to me and took me to one side, un 
der the shadow of a tall oak tree. It was a bright moonlight night, 
with some big, fleecy clouds in the sky. "Stillwell," asked Sam, 
"do you think we are going to have a fight?" "I don t know, Sam," 
I answered, "but it looks very much like it. I reckon Gen. Ross 
is not going out to hunt a fight; he prefers to stay here, protect 
the government stores, and fight on the defensive. If our cavalry 
can stand the Rebs off, then maybe they will let us alone, but if 
our cavalry are driven in, then look out." Sam held his head down, 
and said nothing. As above stated, he was a grown man, and I 
was only a boy, but the thing that was troubling him was apparent 
from his demeanor, and I felt sorry for him. I laid a hand kindly 
on his shoulder, and said, "And Sam, if we should have a fight, 
now try, old fellow, and do better than you did before." He looked 
up quickly at that instant the moon passed from behind a big 
cloud and shone through a rift in the branches of the tree, full in 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 95 

his face, which was as pale as death, and he said, in a broken 
voice: "Stillwell, I ll run; I just know I ll run, by God, I can t 
help it !" I deeply pitied the poor fellow, and talked to him a few 
minutes, in the kindest manner possible, trying to reason him out 
of that sort of a feeling. But his case was hopeless. He was a 
genial, kind-hearted man, but simply a constitutional coward, and 
he doubtless told the truth when he said he "couldn t help it." In 
the very next fight we were in he verified his prediction. I may 
say something about that further on. 

Since leaving Camp Carrollton, Co. D had lost two sergeants, 
one by death from sickness, the other by discharge for disability, 
so while we were at Bolivar these vacancies were filled by appoint 
ments made by Maj. Ohr, who was then commanding the regiment. 
In accordance with the custom in such matters, the appointments 
were announced in orders, which were read on dress parade. As I 
now write, it is a little over fifty-four years since this event took 
place, but even now my heart beats faster as the fact is recalled 
that as the adjutant read the list, there came the name "Corporal 
Leander Stillwell, Co. D, to be 4th Sergeant." 

In the early part of August, 1862, while our regiment was at 
Bolivar, I cast my first vote, which was an illegal one, as then I was 
not quite nineteen years old. The circumstances connected with 
my voting are not lengthy, so the story will be told. In the fall of 
1861 the voters of the state of Illinois elected delegates to a Con 
stitutional Convention, to frame and submit to the people a new 
Constitution. A majority of the delegates so elected were Demo 
crats, so they prepared a Constitution in accordance with their 
political views. It therefore became a party measure, the Demo 
crats supporting and the Republicans opposing it. By virtue of 
some legal enactment all Illinois soldiers in the field, who were law 
ful voters, were authorized to vote on the question of the adoption 
of the proposed constitution, and so, on the day above indicated 
the election for this purpose was held in our regiment. An elec 
tion board was duly appointed, consisting of commissioned officers 
of the regiment ; they fixed up under a big tree some hardtack box- 



96 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

es to serve for a table, and the proceedings began. I had no inten 
tion of voting, as I knew I had not the legal right, but Enoch Wal 
lace came to me and suggested that I go up and vote. When I said 
I was not old enough, he simply laughed, and took me by the arm 
and marched me to the voting place. The manner of voting was by 
word of mouth, the soldier gave his name, and stated that he was 
"For" or "Against" the constitution, as the case might be, and his 
vote was recorded. I voted "Against," and started away, no ques 
tions being asked me as to my age. But before getting out of 
hearing I heard one of the board say, somewhat sotto voce, "That s 
a mighty young looking voter." Capt. Ihrie, of Co. C, also on the 
board, responded carelessly in the same tone, "Oh well, it s all 
right; he s a dam good soldier." That remark puffed me away up, 
and almost made me feel as if I had grown maybe three feet, or 
more, in as many seconds, and needed only a fierce mustache to be a 
match for one of Napoleon s Old Guard. And my vote was not the 
same as Ihrie s, either, as he was a Democrat, and supporting the 
new constitution. When the regiment was recruited it was Demo 
cratic by a large majority, but under the enlightening experiences 
of the war it hac become Republican, and out of a total vote of 
about two hundred and fifty, it gave a majority against the new 
constitution of twenty-five. The final result was that the pro 
posed constitution was beaten by the "home vote" alone, which 
gave something over 16,000 majority against it. Consequently the 
soldier vote (although heavily against the measure) cut no figure, 
as it was not needed, and my illegal exercise of the right of suf 
frage did neither good nor harm ; and the incident has long since 
been barred by the statute of limitations. 

During the latter part of July, and throughout August and 
September, things were lively and exciting at Bolivar, and in that 
region generally. There was a sort of feeling of trouble in the air 
most of the time. Gen. Grant was in command in this military 
district, and he has stated in his Memoirs that the "most anxious" 
period of the war, to him, was, practically, during the time above 
stated. But we common soldiers were not troubled with any such 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 97 

feeling. We were devoid of all responsibility, except simply to 
look out for and take care of ourselves, and do our duty to the best 
of our ability. And, speaking for myself, I will say that this con 
dition was one that was very "full of comfort." We had no plan 
ning nor thinking to do, and the world could just wag as it willed. 



98 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER VIII. 



BOLIVAR. THE MOVEMENT TO THE VICINITY OF IUKA, 
MISSISSIPPI. SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER, 1862. 

On September 16 the regiment (with the rest of our brigade) 
left Bolivar, on the cars, went to Jackson, and thence to Corinth, 
Mississippi, where we arrived about sundown. From here, still 
on the cars, we started east on the Memphis and Charleston rail 
road. The train proceeded very slowly, and after getting about 
seven or eight miles from Corinth, it stopped, and we passed the 
rest of the night on the cars. Early next morning the train start 
ed, and we soon arrived at the little town of Burnsville, about fif 
teen miles southeast of Corinth, where we left the cars, and went 
into bivouac near the eastern outskirts of the tofwn. 

On the morning of the 19th, before daylight, we marched 
about two miles east of Burnsville, and formed in line of battle, 
facing the south, in thick woods, consisting mainly of tall pines. 
It was talked among us that the Confederate pickets were only a 
short distance from our front, and it certainly looked like a battle 
was impending. By this time the military situation was pretty 
well understood by all of us. A Confederate force of about eight 
thousand men under Gen. Sterling Price was at the town of luka, 
about two miles south of us, and Gen. Grant and Gen. Rosecrans 
had formulated a plan for attacking this force on two sides at once. 
Gen. Rosecrans was to attack from the south, while our column, 
under the immediate command of Gen. E. 0. C. Ord, was to close in 
from the north. Gen. Grant was on the field, and was with the 
troops on the north. The plan was all right, and doubtless would 
have succeeded, if the wind, on September 19, 1862, in that local 
ity had been blowing from the south instead of the north. It is 
on such seemingly little things that the fate of battles, and some 
times that of nations, depends. Gen. Rosecrans on the afternoon 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 99 

of the 19th encountered the enemy south of luka, had a severe 
battle, and was quite roughly handled. Only a few miles to the 
north was all of Ord s command, in line of battle, and expecting 
to go in every minute, but the order never came. So all day we 
just stood around in those pine woods, wondering what in the 
world was the matter. As already stated, the woods were dense, 
and the wind blowing from the north carried from us all sounds 
of the battle. I personally know that this was the case. There 
were a few cannon shots next morning, fired by a battery in Gen. 
Rosecrans column, and those we distinctly heard from our posi 
tion, and thought at the time they indicated a battle, but they 
were fired mainly as feelers," and to ascertain if the enemy were 
present in force. But, as stated, all day on the 19th we heard not 
a sound to indicate that a desperate battle was in progress only a 
few miles from our front. 

Early in the morning of the 19th I witnessed an incident that 
inspired in me my first deep-seated hatred of whisky, and which 
has abided with me ever since. We had formed in line of battle, 
but the command had been given, "In place, rest!" (which we were 
allowed to give a liberal construction), and we were scattered 
around, standing or sitting down, near the line. About this 
time two young assistant surgeons came from the rear, riding up 
the road on which the left of the regiment rested. They belonged 
to some infantry regiment of the division, but personally I didn t 
know them. They were both fool drunk. On reaching our line of 
battle they stopped, but kept in their saddles, pulling their horses 
about, playing "smarty," and grinning and chattering like a brace 
of young monkeys. I looked at these drunk young fools, and 
thought that maybe, in less than an hour, one of them might be 
standing over me, probing a bullet wound in one of my legs, and 
tihen and there promptly deciding the question whether the leg 
should be sawed off, or whether it could be saved. And what 
kind of intelligent judgment on this matter, on which my life or 
death might depend, could this whisky-crazed young gosling be 
capable of exercising? I felt so indignant at the condition and 



100 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

conduct of these men, right on the eve of what we supposed might 
be a severe battle and in which their care for the wounded would 
be required, that it almost seemed to me it would be doing the 
government good service to shoot both the galoots right on the 
spot. And there were other boys who felt the same way, who be 
gan making ominous remarks. The drunken young wretches 
seemed to have sense enough to catch the drift of something that 
was said, they put spurs to their horses and galloped off to the 
rear, and we saw them no more. 

On the morning of the 20th some regiments of our division 
moved forward and occupied the town of luka, but Gen. Price had 
in the meantime skipped out, so there was no fighting. Our regi 
ment, with some others, remained in the original position, so that 
I never got to see the old town of luka until several years after the 
war. Sometime during the afternoon of the 20th I went to Capt. 
Reddish and said to him that I had become so tired of just standing 
around, and asked him if I could take a short stroll in the woods. 
The old man gave his consent (as I felt satisfied he would) but 
cautioned me not to go too far away. The. main thing in view, 
when I made the request, was the hope of finding some wild mus 
cadine grapes. They were plentiful in this section of the country, 
and were now ripe, and I wanted a bait. I think a wild muscadine 
grape is just the finest fruit of that kind in existence. When ripe 
it has a strong and most agreeable fragrance, and when one is to 
the leeward of a vine loaded with grapes, and a gentle wind is 
blowing from the south, he is first made aware of their proximity 
by their grateful odor. I soon found some on this occasion, and 
they were simply delicious. Having fully satisfied my craving, I 
proceeded to make my way back to the regiment, when hearing the 
trampling sound of cavalry, I hurried through the woods to the 
side of the road, reaching there just as the head of the column ap 
peared. It was only a small body, not more than a hundred or 
so, and there, riding at its head, was Grant! I had not seen him 
since the battle of Shiloh and I looked at him with intense interest. 
He had on an old "sugar-loaf" hat, with limp, drooping bii^i, and 



THE_ STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 101 

his outer coat was the ordinary uniform coat, with a long cape, 
of a private in the cavalry. His foot-gear was cavalry boots, 
splashed with mud, and the ends of his trousers legs were tucked 
inside the boots. No shoulder-straps were visible, and the only 
eyidence of rank about him that was perceptible consisted of a 
frayed and tarnished gold cord on his hat. He was looking down 
ward as he rode by, and seemed immersed in thought. As the 
column passed along, I asked a soldier near the rear what troops 
they were, and he answered, "Co. A, Fourth Illinois Cavalry 
Gen. Grant s escort." This was the last time that I saw Grant 
during the war. 

On the evening of the 20th the regiment was drawn back into 
Burnsville, and that night Co. D bivouacked in the "Harrison 
Hotel," which formerly had evidently been the principal hotel in 
the town. It was a rambling, roomy, old frame building, two 
stories and a half high, now vacant, stripped of all furniture, and 
with a thick layer of dust and dirt on the floors. We occupied a 
room on the second floor, that evidently had been the parlor. Be 
ing quartered in a hotel was a novel experience, and the boys got 
lots of fun out of it. One would call out, "Bill, ring the clerk to 
send up a pitcher of ice water, and to be quick about it;" while 
another would say, "And while you re at it, tell him to note a 
special order from me for quail on toast for breakfast ;" and so on. 
But these pleasantries soon subsided, and it was not long before 
we were wrapped in slumber. It was a little after midnight, and 
I was sound asleep, when I heard someone calling, "Sergeant Still- 
well! Where is Sergeant Stillwell?" I sprang to my feet, and 
answered, "Here ! What s wanted ?" The speaker came to me, and 
theji I saw that it was Lt. Goodspeed, who was acting as adjutant 
of the regiment. He proceeded to inform me that I was to take 
charge of a detail of three corporals and twelve men and go to a 
point about a mile and a half east of Burnsville, to guard a party 
of section men while clearing and repairing the railroad from a 
recent wreck. He gave me full instructions, and then said, "Still- 
well, a lieutenant should go in charge of this detail, but all that I 



102 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

could find made pretty good excuses and I think you ll do. It is 
a position of honor and responsibility, as there are some prowling 
bands of guerrillas in this vicinity, so be careful and vigilant." I 
was then acting as first sergeant, and really was exempt from this 
duty, but of course the idea of making that claim was not enter 
tained for a moment. I took charge of my party, went to where 
the laborers were waiting for us with hand cars, and we soon ar 
rived at the scene of the wreck. A day or two before our arrival 
at Burnsville a party of Confederate cavalry had torn up the track 
at this point, and wrecked and burnt a freight train. Some horses 
on the train had been killed in the wreck ; their carcasses were ly 
ing around, and were rather offensive. The trucks and other iron 
work of the cars were piled on the track, tangled up, and all out of 
shape, some rails removed and others warped by heat, and things 
generally in a badly torn-up condition. The main dirt road forked 
here, one fork going diagonally to the right of the track 
and the other to the left both in an easterly direction. I 
posted three men and a corporal about a quarter of a mile to the 
front on the track, a similar squad at the same distance on each 
fork of the dirt road, and the others at intervals on each side 0f 
the railroad at the place of the wreck. The laborers went to work 
with a will, and about the time the owls were hooting for day 
the foreman reported to me that the track was clear, the rails re 
placed, and that they were ready to return to Burnsville. I then 
drew in my guards, we got on the hand cars, and were soon back 
in town. And thus ended my first, and only, personal supervision 
of the work of repairing a break in a railroad. 

I barely had time to make my coffee and toast a piece of bacon 
when the bugle sounded "Fall in!" and soon (that being the 
morning of September 21st) we started on the back track, and 
that day marched to Corinth. It so happened that on this march 
our regiment was at the head of the column. The proper place 
of my company, according to army regulations, was the third from 
the right or head of the line, but from some cause I never knew 
what on that day we were placed at the head. And, as I was 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 103 

then acting as first sergeant of our company, that put me the head 
man on foot. These details are mentioned for the reason that all 
that day I marched pretty close to the tail of the horse that Gen. 
Ord was riding, and with boyish curiosity, I scanned the old gen 
eral closely. He was a graduate of West Point, and an old regular. 
He had served in the Florida and the Mexican wars, and he also 
had been in much scrapping with hostile Indians in the vicinity of 
the Pacific Coast. He looked old to me, but really he was, at this 
time, only about forty-four years of age. He certainly was in 
different to his personal appearance, as his garb was even plainer, 
and more careless, than Grant s. He wore an old battered felt 
hat, with a flapping brim, and his coat was one of the old-fashioned, 
long-tailed oil-cloth "wrap-rascals" then in vogue. It was all 
splattered with mud, with several big torn places in it. There 
was not a thing about him, that I could see, to indicate his rank. 
Later he was transferred to the eastern armies, eventually was 
assigned to the command of the Army of the James, and took an 
active and prominent part in the operations that culminated in 
the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. 

We reached Corinth that evening, went into bivouac, and re 
mained there a couple of days. On the morning of September 
24th we fell in, marched down to the depot, climbed on cars, and 
were soon being whirled north to Jackson, on the Mobile and Ohio 
railroad. We arrived there about noon, and at once transferred to 
a train on the Mississippi Central track and which forthwith 
started for Bolivar. I think the train we came on to Jackson went 
right back to Corinth to bring up more troops. We common sol 
diers could not imagine what this hurried rushing around meant, 
and it was some time before we found out. But history shows 
that Grant was much troubled about this time as to whether a 
threatened Confederate attack would be delivered at Corinth or 
at Bolivar. However, about the 22nd, the indications were that 
Bolivar would be assailed, and troops were at once brought from 
Corinth to resist this apprehended movement of the Confederates. 

This probably is a fitting place for something to be said about 



104 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

our method of traveling by rail during the Civil war, as compared 
with the conditions of the present day in that regard. At the 
time I am now writing, about fifteen thousand United States sol 
diers have recently been transported on the cars from different 
places in the interior of the country, to various points adjacent to 
the Mexican border, for the purpose of protecting American in 
terests. And it seems that in some cases the soldiers were car 
ried in ordinary passenger coaches. Thereupon bitter complaints 
were made on behalf of such soldiers because Pullman sleepers 
were not used ! And these complaints were effective, too, for, ac 
cording to the press reports of the time, the use of passenger 
coaches for suclh purposes was summarily stopped and Pullmans 
were hurriedly concentrated at the places needed, and the soldiers 
went to war in them. Well, in our time, the old regiment was 
hauled over the country many times on trains, the extent of our 
travels in that manner aggregating hundreds and hundreds of 
miles. And such a thing as even ordinary passenger coaches for 
the use of the enlisted men was never heard of. And I have no 
recollection now that (during the war) any were provided for the 
use of the commissioned officers, either, unless they were of pretty 
high rank. The cars that we rode in were the box or freight 
cars in use in those days. Among them were cattle cars, flat or 
platform cars, and in general every other kind of freight car that 
could be procured. We would fill the box cars, and in addition 
clamber upon the roofs thereof and avail ourselves of every foot 
of space. And usually there was a bunch on the cow-catchers. 
The engines used wood for fuel; the screens of the smoke-stacks 
must have been very coarse, or maybe they had none at all, and 
the big cinders would patter down on us like hail. So, when we 
came to the journey s end, by reason of the cinders and soot we 
were about as dirty and black as any regiment of sure-enough 
colored troops that fought under the Union flag in the last years 
of the war. When the regiment was sent home in September, 
1865, some months ajfter the war was over, the ennsted men made 
even that trip in our old friends, the box cars. It is true that on 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 105 

this occasion there was a passenger coach for the use of the com 
missioned officers, and that is the only time that A ever saw such 
a coach attached to a train on which the regiment was taken any 
where. Now, don t misunderstand me. I am xiot kicking be 
cause, more than half a century after the close of the Civil War, 
Uncle Sam sent his soldier boys to the front in Pullmans. The 
force so sent was small and the government could well afford to do 
it, and it was right. I just want you to know Jiat in my time, 
when we rode, it was in any kind of an old f reiguc car, and we were 
awful glad to get that. And now, on this ma^er, The words of 
Job are ended." 

The only railroad accident I ever happened to be in was one 
that befell our train as we were in the act of leaving Jackson on 
the afternoon of the 24th. There was a good deal of hurry and 
confusion when we got on the cars, and it looked like it was every 
fellow for himself. Jack Medford (my chum) and I were run 
ning along the side of the track looking for a favorable situation, 
when we came to a flat car about the middle of the train, as yet 
unoccupied. "Jack," said I, "let s get on this!" He was a little 
slow of speech; he stopped, looked and commenced to say some 
thing, but his hesitation lost us the place, and was fraught with 
other consequences. Right at that moment a bunch of the 12th 
Michigan on the other side of the track piled on the car quicker 
than a flash, and took up all available room. Jack and I then ran 
forward and climbed on top o< a box car, next to the tender of the 
engine, and soon after the train started. It had not yet got under 
full head-way, and was going only about as fast as a man could 
walk, when, from some cause, the rails spread, and the first car 
to leave the rails was the flat above mentioned. But its trucks 
went bouncing along on the ties, and doubtless nobody would have 
been hurt, had it not been for the fact that the car plunged into a 
cattle guard, of the kind then in use. This guard was just a hole 
dug in the track, probably four or five feet deep, the same in length, 
and in width extending from rail to rail. Well, the front end of 
the car went down into that hole, and then the killing began. 



106 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

They stopped the train very quickly, the entire event couldn t have 
lasted more than half a minute, but that flat car was torn to 
splinters, three soldiers on it were killed dead, being frightfully 
crushed and mangled, and several more were badly injured. The 
men on the car jumped in every direction when the car began 
breaking up, and so the most of them escaped unhurt. If the 
train had been going at full speed, other cars would have been 
involved, and there is simply no telling how many would then have 
been killed and wounded. 

On what little things does the fate of man sometimes depend ! 
If in response to my suggestion Jack Medford had promptly said, 
"All right," we would have jumped on that flat car, and then 
would have been caught in the smash-up. But he took a mere 
fraction of time to look and think, and that brief delay was, per 
haps, our temporal salvation. 

We arrived at Bolivar during the afternoon of the 24th and 
re-occupied our old camp. The work of fortifying that place was 
pushed with renewed vigor, and strong lines of breastworks, with 
earthen forts at intervals, were constructed which practically in 
closed the entire town. But we never had occasion to use them. 
Not long after our return to Bolivar, Gen. Grant became satisfied 
that the point the enemy would assail was Corinth, so the most of 
the troops at Bolivar were again started to Corinth, to aid in re 
pelling the impending attack, but this time they marched overland. 
Our regiment and two others, with some artillery, were left to 
garrison Bolivar. And so it came to pass that the battle of Cor 
inth was fought, on our part, by the command of Gen. Rosecrans 
on October 4th, and the battle of Hatchie Bridge the next day by 
the column from Bolivar, under the command of Gen. Ord, and 
we missed both battles. For my part, I then felt somewhat cha 
grined that we didn t get to take part in either of those battles. 
Here we had been rushed around the country from pillar to post, 
hunting for trouble, and then to miss both these fights was just a 
little mortifying. However, the common soldier can only obey 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 107 

orders, and stay where he is put, and doubtless it was all for the 
best. 

Early on the morning of October 9th, a force of about four 
thousand men, including our regiment, started from Bolivar, 
marching southwest on the dirt road. We arrived at Grand 
Junction at dark, after a march of about twenty miles. Grand 
Junction was the point where the Memphis & Charleston and the 
Mississippi Central railroads crossed. We had not much more than 
stacked arms, and of course before I had time to cook my supper, 
when I was detailed for picket, and was on duty all night. But 
I didn t go supperless by any means, as I made coffee and fried 
some bacon at the picket post. Early next morning the command 
fell in line, and we all marched back to Bolivar again. We had 
hardly got started before it began to rain, and just poured down 
all day long. But the weather was pleasant, we took off our shoes 
and socks and rolled up our breeches, after the manner heretofore 
described, and just "socked on" through the yellow mud, whoop 
ing and singing, and as wet as drowned rats. We reached Bolivar 
some time after dark. The boys left there in camp in some way 
had got word that we were on the return, and had prepared for us 
some camp-kettles full of hot, strong coffee, with plenty of fried 
sow-belly, so we had a good supper. What the object of the ex 
pedition was, and what caused us to turn back, I have never 
learned, or if I did, have now forgotten. 

On returning to Bolivar we settled down to the usual routine 
of battalion drill and standing picket. The particular guard duty 
the regiment performed nearly all the time we were at Bolivar 
(with some casual exceptions) was guarding the railroad from 
the bridge over Hatchie river, north to Toone s Station, a distance 
of about seven miles. Toone s Station, as its name indicates, was 
nothing but a stopping point, with a little rusty looking old 
frame depot and a switch. The usual tour of guard duty was 
twenty-four hours all the while I was in the service, except during 
this period of railroad guarding, and for it the time was two days 
and nights. Every foot of the railroad had to be vigilantly watched 



108 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

to prevent its being torn up by bands of guerrillas or disaffected 
citizens. One man with a crow-bar, or even an old ax, could re 
move a rail at a culvert, or some point on a high grade, and cause 
a disastrous wreck. 

I liked this railroad guard duty. Between Bolivar and 
Toone s the road ran through dense woods, with only an occasional 
little farm on either side of the road, and it was pleasant to be out 
in those fine old woods, and far away from the noise and smells of 
the camps. And there are so many things that are strange and 
attractive, to be seen and heard, when one is standing alone on 
picket, away out in some lonesome place, in the middle of the 
night. I think that a man who has never spent some wakeful 
hours in the night, by himself, out in the woods, has simply missed 
one of the most interesting parts of life. The night is the time 
when most of the wild things are astir, and some of the tame ones, 
too. There was some kind of a very small frog in the swamps 
and marshes near Bolivar that gave forth about the most plaintive 
little cry that I ever heard. It was very much like the bleating of a 
young lamb, and, on hearing it the first time, I thought sure it was 
from some little lamb that was lost, or in distress of some kind. I 
never looked the matter up to ascertain of what particular species 
those frogs were. They may be common throughout the South, but 
I never heard this particular call except around and near Bolivar. 
And the woods between Bolivar and Toone s were full of owls, from 
great big fellows with a thunderous scream, down to the little 
screech owls, who made only a sort of chattering noise. One never 
failing habit of the big owls was to assemble in some grove of tall 
trees just about daybreak, and have a morning concert, that could 
be heard half a mile away. And there were also whippoorwills, and 
mocking birds, and, during the pleasant season of the year, myr 
iads of insects that would keep sounding their shrill little notes 
the greater part of the night. And the only time one sees a flying 
squirrel, (unless you happen to cut down the tree in whose hollow 
he is sleeping,) is in the night time. They are then abroad in full 
force. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 109 

When on picket in my army days I found out that dogs are 
great nocturnal ramblers. I have been on guard at a big tree, on 
some grass-grown country road, when something would be heard 
coming down the road towards me; pat, pat, pitty-pat, then it 
would stop short. The night might be too dark for me to see it, 
but I knew it must be a dog. It would stand silent for a few sec 
onds, evidently closely scrutinizing that man alone under the tree, 
with something like a long shining stick in his hands; then it 
would stealthily leave the road, and would be heard rustling 
through the leaves as it made a half circle through the woods to 
get by me. On reaching the road below me, its noise would cease 
for a little while, it was then looking back over its shoulder to see 
if that man was still there. Having satisfied itself on that point, 
then pat, pat, pitty-pat, and it went off in a trot down the road. 
When you see an old farm dog asleep in the sun on the porch in the 
day time, with his head between his paws, it is, as a general rule, 
safe to assume that he was up and on a scout all the previous 
night, and maybe traveled ten or fifteen miles. Cats are also con 
firmed night prowlers, but I don t think they wander as far as dogs. 
Later, when we were in Arkansas, sometimes a full grown bear 
would walk up to some drowsy picket, and give him the surprise of 
his life. 

One quiet, star-lit summer night, while on picket between Boli 
var and Toone s, I had the good fortune to witness the flight of the 
largest and most brilliant meteor I ever have seen. It was a little 
after midnight, and I was standing alone at my post, looking, list 
ening, and thinking. Suddenly there came a loud, rushing, roaring 
sound, like a passenger train close by, going at full speed, and there 
in the west was a meteor! Its flight was from the southwest to 
the northeast, parallel with the horizon, and low down. Its head, 
or body, looked like a huge ball of fire, and it left behind a long, im 
mense tail of brilliant white, that lighted up all the western heavens. 
While yet in full view, it exploded with a crash like a near-by clap 
of thunder, there was a wide, glittering shower of sparks, and 
then silence and darkness. The length of time it was visible could 



110 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

not have been more than a few seconds, but it was a most ex 
traordinary spectacle. 

On October 19th the regiment (except those on guard duty) 
went as escort of a foraging expedition to a big plantation about 
twelve miles from Bolivar down the Hatchie river. We rode there 
and back in the big government wagons, each wagon being drawn 
by a team of six mules. Like Joseph s brethren when they went 
down into Egypt, we were after corn. The plantation we foraged 
was an extensive one on the fertile bottom land of the Hatchie 
river, and the owner that year had grown several hundred acres 
of corn, which had all been gathered, or shocked, and we just took 
it as we found it. The people evidently were wealthy for that time 
and locality, many slaves were on the place, and it was abounding 
in live stock and poultry of all kinds. The plantation in ^general 
presented a scene of rural plenty and abundance that reminded me 
of the home of old Baltus Van Tassel, as described by Washington 
Irving in the story of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," with this 
difference : Everything about the Tennessee plantation was dirty, 
out of order, and in general higgledy-piggledy condition. And the 
method of farming was slovenly in the extreme. The cultivated 
land had been cleared by cutting away the underbrush and small 
trees, while the big ones had merely been "deadened," by girdling 
them near the ground. These dead trees were all standing in 
ghastly nakedness, and so thick in many places that it must have 
been difficult to plow through them, while flocks of crows and 
buzzards were sailing around them or perched in their tops, caw 
ing and croaking, and thereby augmenting the woe-begone looks 
of things. The planter himself was of a type then common in the 
South. He was a large, coarse looking man, with an immense 
paunch, wore a broad-brimmed, home-made straw hat and butter 
nut jeans clothes. His trousers were of the old-fashioned, "broad- 
fall" pattern. His hair was long, he had a scraggy, sandy beard, 
and chewed "long green" tobacco continually and viciously. But 
he was shrewd enough to know that ugly talk on his part wouldn t 
mend matters, but only make them worse, so he stood around in 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. Ill 

silence while we took his corn, but he looked as malignant as a 
rattlesnake. His wife was directly his opposite in appearance and 
demeanor. She was tall, thin, and bony, with reddish hair and a 
sharp nose and chin. And goodness, but she had a temper! She 
stood in the door of the dwelling house, and just tongue-lashed us 
"Yankees," as she called us, to the full extent of her ability. The 
boys took it all good naturedly, and didn t jaw back. We couldn t 
afford to quarrel with a woman. A year later, the result of her 
abuse would have been the stripping of the farm of every hog and 
head of poultry on it, but at this time the orders were strict against 
indiscriminate, individual foraging, and except one or two bee- 
stands full of honey, nothing was taken but the corn. And I have 
no doubt that long ere this the Government has paid that planter, 
or his heirs, a top-notch price for everything we took. It seems 
to be easy, now-a-days, to get a special Act through Congress, mak 
ing "full compensation" in cases of that kind. 

Not long after the foregoing expedition, I witnessed a some 
what amusing .incident one night on the picket line. One day, for 
some reason, the regiment was required, in addition to the railroad 
guards, to furnish a number of men for picket duty. First Lieut. 
Sam T. Carrico, of Co. B, was the officer, and it fell to my lot to be 
the sergeant of the guard. We picketed a section of the line a mile 
or so southwest of Bolivar, and the headquarters post, where the 
lieutenant and the sergeant of the guard stayed, was at a point 
on a main traveled road running southwest from the town. It was 
in the latter part of October, and the night was a bad and cold one. 
Lieut. Carrico and I had "doubled up," spread one of our blankets 
on the ground, and with the other drawn over us, were lying down 
and trying to doze a little, when about ten o clock we heard a horse 
man coming at full speed from the direction of Bolivar. We there 
upon rose to a sitting posture, and awaited developments. The 
horseman, on nearing our post and being challenged, responded, 
"Friend, without the countersign!" and in a peremptory manner 
told the sentinel on duty that he wanted to see the officer of the 
guard. Lieut. Carrico and I walked up to the horseman, and, on 



112 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

getting close to him, saw that he was a Union officer of the rank of 
Captain. Addressing himself to the lieutenant, in a loud and hasty 
manner he told him his story, which, in substance, was that he was 
Captain - - (giving his name), on Gen. Grant s staff, that he 
had just arrived in Bolivar on the train from Memphis, that he 
had important business a few miles outside of the lines, and being 
in a great hurry, he had not gone to post headquarters to get the 
countersign, as he felt satisfied that the statement of his rank and 
business would be sufficient to insure his being passed through the 
picket line, and so on. Lieut. Carrico listened in silence until the 
fellow finished, and then said, quietly but -very firmly, "Captain, if 
you claimed to be Gen. Grant himself, you shouldn t pass through 
my line without the countersign." At this the alleged staff officer" 
blew up, and thundered and bullied at a great rate. Carrico was 
not much more than a boy, being only about twenty-two years old, 
and of slight build, but he kept perfectly cool and remained firm 
as a rock. Finally the officer wheeled his horse around and started 
back to town at a furious gallop. Carrico then walked up to the 
sentinel on duty and said to him, "Now, if that fellow comes back, 
you challenge him, and make him conform to every item of the 
army regulations;" and to make sure about it, he gave the guard 
specific instructions as to his duties in such cases. We stood around 
and waited, and it was not long before we heard the horseman re 
turning at his usual rate of speed. He never checked his gait until 
the challenge of the sentinel rang out, "Halt! Who comes there?" 
"Friend, with the countersign!" was the answer. "Dismount, 
friend, advance, and give the countersign !" cried the sentinel. 
Kuh-sock, went the fine, high-top boots of the rider in the mud, and 
leading his horse, he walked up, gave the talismanic word, to which 
the response was made, "Countersign s correct ! Pass, friend." The 
officer then sprang into the saddle, and rode up to the lieutenant and 
me. Taking a memorandum book and pencil from one of his pock 
ets, he said to Carrico, "Give me your name, company, and regi 
ment, sir." "Samuel T. Carrico, first lieutenant Co. B, 61st Illinois 
Infantry." The officer scribbled in his note-book, then turned to 




1st Lieutenant Co. B, 61st Illinois Infantry. 
Bolivar, Tenn., Oct., 1862. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 113 

me, "And yours?" "Leander Stillwell, sergeant Co. D, 61st Illinois 
Infantry ;" and that answer was also duly recorded. "Good night, 
gentlemen; you ll render an account for this outrage later;" and 
with this parting salutation, the officer galloped away. "All right !" 
Carrico called after him, "you know where to find us." The victim 
of the "outrage" had not returned when we were relieved at 9 
o clock the next morning, and we never saw or heard of him any 
more. Of course his threat on leaving us was pure bluff, for Lieut. 
Carrico had only done his plain and simple duty. The fellow was 
probably all right; his returning with the countersign would indi 
cate it. But his "important business" was doubtless simply to keep 
a date with some lady-love out in the country, and he wanted to 
meet her under the friendly cover of the night. 

A few words will here be said in the nature of a deserved trib 
ute to Lieut. Carrico. Later he rose to the rank of Captain of his 
company, and was one among the very best and bravest of the line 
officers of the -regiment. He had nerves like hammered steel, and 
was as cool a man in action as I ever have known. Of all the offi 
cers of the regiment who were mustered in at its organization, he 
is now the only survivor. He is living at Alva, Oklahoma, and is 
a hale, hearty old man. 



114 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER IX. 



THE AFFAIR AT SALEM CEMETERY. JACKSON, CARROLL 
STATION. DECEMBER, 1862, JANUARY, 1863. 

BOLIVAR. FEBRUARY-MAY, 1863. 

On the afternoon of December 18th, suddenly, without any 
previous warning or notification, the bugle sounded "Fall in!" and 
all the regiment fit for duty and not on guard at once formed on 
the regimental parade ground. From there we marched to the 
depot, and with the 43rd Illinois of our brigade got on the cars, and 
were soon being whirled over the road in a northerly direction. It 
was a warm, sunshiny day, and we common soldiers supposed we 
were going on just some little temporary scout, so we encumbered 
ourselves with nothing but our arms, and haversacks, and can 
teens. Neglecting to take our blankets was a grievous mistake, as 
later we found out to our sorrow. We arrived at Jackson a little 
before sundown, there left the cars, and, with the 43rd, forthwith 
marched out about two miles east of town. A little after dark we 
halted in an old field on the left of the road, in front of a little old 
country graveyard called Salem Cemetery, and there bivouacked 
for the night. Along in the evening the weather turned intensely 
cold. It was a clear, star-lit night, and the stars glittered in the 
heavens like little icicles. We were strictly forbidden to build any 
fires, for the reason, as our officers truly said, the Confederates 
were not more than half a mile away, right in our front. As be 
fore stated, we had no blankets, and how we suffered with the cold ! 
I shall never forget that night of December 18th, 1862. We would 
form little columns of twenty or thirty men, in two ranks, and 
would just trot round and round in the tall weeds and broom 
sedge to keep from chilling to death. Sometimes we would pile 
down on the ground in great bunches, and curl up close together 
like hogs, in our efforts to keep warm. But some part of our bodies 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 115 

would be exposed, which soon would be stinging with cold, then up 
we would get and renew the trotting process. At one time in the 
night some of the boys, rendered almost desperate by their suffering 
*-, started to build a fire with some fence rails. The red flames 
began to curl around the wood, and I started for the fire, intending 
to absorb some of that glowing heat, if, as Uncle Remus says, "it 
wuz de las ack." But right then a mounted officer dashed up to 
the spot, and sprang from his horse. He was wearing big cavalry 
boots, and jumped on that fire with both feet and stamped it out 
in less time than I am taking to tell about it. I heard afterwards 
that he was Col. Engelmann, of the 43rd Illinois, then the com 
mander of our brigade. Having put out the fire, he turned on the 
men standing around, and swore at them furiously. He said that 
the rebels were right out in our front, and in less than five minutes 
after we had betrayed our presence by fires, they would open on 
us with artillery, and "shell hell out of us ;" and more to the same 
effect. The boys listened in silence, meek as lambs, and no more 
fires were started by us that night. But the hours seemed inter 
minably long, and it looked like the night would never come to an 
end. At last some little woods birds were heard, faintly chirping 
in the weeds and underbrush near by, then some owls set up a 
hooting in the woods behind us, and I knew that dawn was ap 
proaching. When it became light enough to distinguish one an 
other, we saw that we presented a doleful appearance all hollow- 
eyed, with blue noses, pinched faces, and shivering as if we would 
shake to pieces. Permission was then given to build small fires to 
cook our breakfast, and we didn t wait for the order to be repeated. 
I made a quart canful of strong, hot coffee, toasted some bacon on 
a stick, and then, with some hardtack, had a good breakfast and 
felt better. Breakfast over (which didn t take long) , the regiment 
was drawn back into the cemetery, and placed in line behind the 
section of inclosing fence that faced to the front. The fence was 
of post and plank, the planks arranged lengthwise, with spaces be 
tween. We were ordered to lie flat on the ground, and keep the 
barrels of our guns out of sight, as much as possible. Our posi- 



116 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

tion in general may be described about as follows: The right of 
the regiment rested near the dirt road, and at right angles to it. 
The ground before us was open for more than half a mile. It 
sloped down gently, then it rose gradually to a long, bare ridge, or 
slight elevation of ground, which extended parallel to our front. 
The road was enclosed by an old-time staked and ridered fence, of 
the "worm" pattern. On our right, and on the other side of the 
road, was a thick forest of tall trees, in which the 43rd Illinois was 
posted. The cemetery was thickly studded with tall, native trees, 
and a few ornamental ones, such as cedar and pine. Soon after we 
had been put in position, as above stated, Col. Engelmann, the bri 
gade commander, came galloping up, and stopped about opposite 
the front of the regiment. Maj. Ohr, our regimental commander, 
who was in the rear of the regiment on foot, walked out to meet 
him. Engelmann was a German, and a splendid officer. 

"Goot morning, Major," he said, in a loud voice we all heard. 
"How are de poys?" "All right," answered the Major; "we had 
rather a chilly night, but are feeling first rate now." "Dat iss 
goot," responded the Colonel; and continued in his loud tone, "our 
friends are right out here in de bush; I reckon dey ll show up pres 
ently. Maybe so dey will give us a touch of deir artillery practice, 
but dat hurts nobody. Shoost have de poys keep cool." 

Then he approached the Major closer, said something in a low 
tone we did not hear, waved his hand to us, and then galloped oft 
to the right. He was hardly out of sight, when sure enough, two 
or three cannon shots were heard out in front, followed by a scat 
tering fire of small arms. We had a small force of our cavalry in 
the woods beyond the ridge I have mentioned, and they soon ap 
peared, slowly falling back. They were spread out in a wide, ex 
tended skirmish line, and acted fine. They would trot a little ways 
to the rear, then face about, and fire their carbines at the ad 
vancing foe, who, as yet, was unseen by us. Finally they galloped 
off to the left and disappeared in the woods, and all was still for a 
short time. Suddenly, without a note of warning, and not preceded 
by even a skirmish line, there appeared coming over the ridge in 



THE^STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 117 

front, and down the road, a long column of Confederate cavalry! 
They were, when first seen, at a walk, and marching by the flank, 
with a front of four men. How deep the column was we could not 
tell. The word was immediately passed down our line not to fire 
until at the word of command, and that we were to fire by file, be 
ginning on the right. That is, only two men, front and rear rank, 
would fire together, and so on, down the line. The object of this 
was apparent: by the time the left of the regiment had emptied 
their guns, the right would have reloaded, and thus a continuous 
firing would be maintained. With guns cocked and fingers on the 
triggers, we waited in tense anxiety for the word to fire. Maj. 
Ohr was standing a few paces in the rear of the center of the regi 
ment, watching the advance of the enemy. Finally, when they were 
in fair musket range, came the order, cool and deliberate, without 
a trace of excitement: "At-ten-shun, bat-tal-yun! Fire by file! 
Ready! Commence firing!" and down the line crackled the mus 
ketry. Concurrently with us, the old 43rd Illinois on the right 
joined in the serenade. In the front file of the Confederate column 
was one of the usual fellows with more daring than discretion, who 
was mounted on a tall, white horse. Of course, as long as that 
horse was on its feet, everybody shot at him, or the rider. But 
that luckless steed soon went down in a cloud of dust, and that was 
the end of old Whitey. The effect of our fire on the enemy was 
marked and instantaneous. The head of their column crumpled up 
instanter, the road was full of dead and wounded horses, while 
several that were riderless went galloping down the road by us, 
with bridle reins and stirrups flapping on their necks and flanks. 
I think there is no doubt that the Confederates were taken com 
pletely by surprise. They stopped short when we opened on them, 
wheeled around, and went back much faster than they came, ex 
cept a little bunch who had been dismounted. They hoisted a 
white rag, came in, and surrendered. The whole affair was exceed 
ingly "short and sweet;" in duration it could not have exceeded 
more than a few minutes, but it was highly interesting as long as it 
lasted. But now the turn of the other fellows was to come. Soon 



118 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

after their charging column disappeared behind the ridge in our 
front, they put in position on the crest of the ridge two black, 
snaky looking pieces of artillery, and began giving us the benefit of 
the "artillery practice" Col. Engelmann had alluded to. They 
were beyond the range of our muskets; we had no artillery with 
our little force, and just had to lie there and take it. I know noth 
ing about the technicalities of cannon firing, so I can only describe 
in my own language how it appeared to us. The enemy now knew 
just where we were, there were no obstructions between them and 
us, and they concentrated their fire on our regiment. Sometimes 
they threw a solid shot at us, but mostly they fired shells. They 
were in plain sight, and we could see every movement connected 
with the firing of the guns. After a piece was fired, the first thing 
done was to "swab" it. Two men would rush to the muzzle with 
the swabber, give it a few quick turns in the bore, then throw down 
the swabber and grab up the rammer. Another man would then 
run forward with the projectile and insert it in the muzzle of the 
piece, the rammers would ram it home, and then stand clear. The 
man at the breech would then pull the lanyard, and now look 
out ! A tongue of red flame would leap from the mouth of the can 
non, followed by a billow of white smoke; then would come the 
scream of the missile as it passed over our heads (if a solid shot) , 
or exploded near our front or rear (if a shell), and lastly we would 
hear the report of the gun. Then we all drew a long breath. 
When they threw shells at us their method was to elevate the muz 
zle of the gun, and discharge the missile in such a manner that it 
would describe what I suppose would be called the parabola of a 
curve. As it would be nearing the zenith of its flight we could fol 
low it distinctly with the naked eye. It looked like a big, black 
bug. You may rest assured that we watched the downward course 
of this messenger of mischief with the keenest interest. Some 
times it looked as if it would hit our line, sure, but it never did. 
And, as stated, we could only lie there and watch all this, without 
the power on our part to do a thing in return. Such a situation 
is trying on the nerves. But firing at our line was much like shoot- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 119 

ing at the edge of a knife-blade, and their practice on us, which 
lasted at least two hours, for all practical results, to quote Col. 
Engelmann, "shoost hurt nobody." A private of Co. G had his 
head carried away by a fragment of a shell, and a few others were 
slightly injured, and that was the extent of our casualties. After 
enduring this cannonading for the time above stated, Col. Engel 
mann became apprehensive that the Confederate cavalry were 
flanking us, and trying to get between us and Jackson, so he or 
dered our force to retire. We fell back, in good order, for about a 
mile, then halted, and faced to the front again. Reinforcements 
soon came out from Jackson, and then the whole command ad 
vanced, but the enemy had disappeared. Our regiment marched in 
column by the flank up the road down which the Confederates had 
made their charge. They had removed their killed and wounded, 
but at the point reached by their head of column, the road was 
full of dead horses. Old Whitey was sprawled out in the middle of 
the lane, "with his nostrils all wide," and more than a dozen bullet 
holes in his body. Near his carcass I saw a bloody yarn sock, with 
a bullet hole square through the instep. 1 maae up my mind then 
and there, that if ever I happened to get into the cavalry I would, 
if possible, avoid riding a white horse. 

I will now say something about poor Sam Cobb, heretofore 
mentioned, and then he will disappear from this history. Sam was 
with us at the beginning of this affair on December 19th, but the 
very instant that the enemy came in sight he broke from the ranks 
and ran, and never showed up until we returned to Jackson some 
days later. He then had one of his hands tied up, and claimed that 
he had been wounded in the fight. The nature of his wound was 
simply a neat little puncture, evidently made by a pointed instru 
ment, in the ball of the forefinger of one of his hands. Not a shot 
had been fired at us up to the time when he fled, so it was impos 
sible for his hurt to have been inflicted by the enemy. It was the 
belief of all of us that he had put his forefinger against a tree, and 
then jabbed the point of his bayonet through the ball thereof. I 
heard Capt. Reddish in bitter language charge him with this after- 



120 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

wards, and poor Sam just hung his head and said nothing. When 
the regiment veteranized in 1864, Sam didn t re-enlist, and was 
mustered out in February, 1865, at the end of his term of service. 
On returning to his old home, he found that his reputation in the 
army had preceded him, and it is likely that the surroundings were 
riot agreeable. At any rate, he soon left there, emigrated to a 
southwestern State, and died there several years ago. In my opin 
ion, he really was to be sincerely pitied, for I think, as he had told 
me at Bolivar, he just "couldn t help it." 

We advanced this day (December 19) only two or three miles 
beyond Salem Cemetery, and bivouacked for the night in an old 
field. The weather had changed, and was now quite pleasant; be 
sides, the embargo on fires was lifted, so the discomfort of the 
previous night was only something to be laughed about. The next 
day we were afoot early, and marched east in the direction of Lex 
ington about fifteen miles. But we encountered no enemy, and on 
December 21 turned square around and marched back to Jackson. 
Gen. Forrest was in command of the Confederate cavalry operat 
ing in this region, and he completely fooled Gen. J. C. Sullivan, 
the Union commander of the district of Jackson. While we were 
on this wild-goose chase towards Lexington, Forrest simply 
whirled around our flanks at Jackson, and swept north on the rail 
road, scooping in almost everything to the Kentucky line, and burn 
ing bridges and destroying culverts on the railroad in great shape. 

TDuring our short stay that ensued at Jackson, an event oc 
curred that I have always remembered with pleasure. In 1916 I 
wrote a brief preliminary statement touching this Salem Cemetery 
affair, followed by one of my army letters, the two making a con 
nected article, and the same was published in the Erie (Kansas) 
"Record." It may result in some repetition, but I have concluded 
to here reproduce this published article, which I have called, "A 
Soldier s Christmas Dinner." 

A SOLDIER S CHRISTMAS DINNER. 
By Judge Leander Stillwell. 

Christmas Day in the year eighteen hundred and sixty-two 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 121 

was a gloomy one, in every respect, for the soldiers of the Union 
army in West Tennessee. Five days before, the Confederate Gen 
eral Van Dorn had captured Grant s depot of supplies at Holly 
Springs, and government stores of the value of a million and a 
half of dollars had gone up in smoke and flame. About the same 
time Forrest had struck the Mobile and Ohio railroad, on which we 
depended to bring us from the north our supplies of hardtack and 
bacon, and had made a wreck of the road from about Jackson, 
Tennessee, nearly to Columbus, Kentucky. For some months pre 
vious to these disasters the regiment to which I belonged, the 61st 
Illinois Infantry, had been stationed at Bolivar, Tennessee, engaged 
in guarding the railroad from that place to Toone s Station, a few 
miles north of Bolivar. On December 18, with another regiment 
of our brigade, we were sent by rail to Jackson to assist in repell 
ing Forrest, who was threatening that place. On the following 
day the two regiments, numbering in the aggregate about 500 men, 
in connection with a small detachment of our cavalry, had a lively 
and spirited little brush with the Confederate forces about two 
miles east of Jackson, near a country burying ground called Salem 
Cemetery, which resulted in our having the good fortune to give 
them a salutary check. 

Reinforcements were sent out from Jackson, and Forrest dis 
appeared. The next day our entire command marched about fif 
teen miles eastwardly in the direction of the Tennessee river. It 
was doubtless supposed by our commanding general that the Con 
federates had retreated in that direction, but he was mistaken. 
Forrest had simply whipped around Jackson, struck the railroad 
a few miles north thereof, and then had continued north up the 
road, capturing and destroying as he went. On the succeeding 
day, December 21st, we all marched back to Jackson, and my regi 
ment went into camp on a bleak, muddy hillside in the suburbs of 
the town, and there we remained until December 29th, when we 
were sent to Carroll Station, about eight miles north of Jackson. 

I well remember how gloomy I felt on the morning of that 
Christmas Day at Jackson, Tennessee. I was then only a little 



122 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

over nineteen years of age. I had been in the army nearly a year, 
lacking just a few days, and every day of that time, except a fur 
lough of two days granted at our camp of instruction before we left 
Illinois for the front, had been passed with the regiment in camp 
and field. 

Christmas morning my thoughts naturally turned to the little 
old log cabin in the backwoods of western Illinois, and I couldn t 
help thinking about the nice Christmas dinner that I knew the 
folks at home would sit down to on that day. 

There would be a great chicken pot pie, with its savory crust 
and a superabundance of light, puffy dumplings; delicious light, 
hot biscuits ; a big ball of our own home-made butter, yellow as 
gold; broad slices of juicy ham, the product of hogs of our own 
fattening, and home cured with hickory-wood smoke; fresh eggs 
from the barn in reckless profusion, fried in the ham gravy; 
mealy Irish potatoes, baked in their jackets; coffee with cream 
about half an inch thick ; apple butter and crab apple preserves ; a 
big plate of wild honey in the comb ; and winding 1 up with a thick 
wedge of mince pie that mother knew so well how to make such 
mince pie, in fact, as was made only in those days, and is now as 
extinct as the dodo. And when I turned from these musings upon 
the bill of fare they would have at home to contemplate the dreary 
realities of my own possible dinner for the day -my oyster can 
full of coffee and a quarter ration of hardtack and sow-belly com 
prised the menu. If the eyes of some old soldier should light upon 
these lines, and he should thereupon feel disposed to curl his lip 
with unutterable scorn and say: This fellow was a milksop and 
ought to have been fed on Christian Commission and Sanitary 
goods, and put to sleep at night with a warm rock; at his feet;" 
I can only say in extenuation that the soldier whose feelings I have" 
been trying to describe was only a boy and, boys, you probably 
know how it was yourselves during the first year of your army life. 
But, after all, the soldier had a Christmas dinner that day, and it 
is of that I have started out to speak. 

Several years ago my old army letters, which had been so 



> 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 123 

carefully kept and cherished for all these many years, passed 
from the keeping of those to whom they had been addressed, back 
into the possession of him who penned them, and now, after the 
lapse of fifty-four years, one of these old letters, written to my 
father, shall re-tell the story of this Christmas dinner. 

"Jackson, Tennessee, 

December 27, 1862. 
"Mr. J. O. Stillwell, 

"Otter Creek, Illinois. 

"I wrote you a short and hasty letter the fore part of this week 
to let you know that I was all right, and giving you a brief account 
of our late ups and downs, but I doubt if you have received it. The 
cars have not been running since we came back to Jackson from 
our march after Forrest. The talk in camp is that the rebs have 
utterly destroyed the railroad north of here clean to the Mississip- 
ippi river, and that they have also broken it in various places and 
damaged it badly south of here between Bolivar and Grand Junc 
tion. I have no idea when this letter will reach you, but will write 
it anyhow, and trust to luck and Uncle Sam to get it through in 
course of time. 

"We are now in camp on a muddy hillside in the outskirts of 
Jackson. I think the spot where we are must have been a cavalry 
camp last summer. Lots of corn cobs are scattered on the ground, 
old scraps of harness leather, and such other truck as accumulates 
where horses are kept standing around. When we left Bolivar we 
were in considerable of a hurry, with no time to primp or comb 
our hair, and neither did we bring our tents along, so we are just 
living out of doors now, and "boarding at Sprawl s." There is 
plenty of wood, though, to make fires, and we have jayhawked 
enough planks and boards to lie on to keep us out of the mud, so 
we just curl up at night in our blankets with all our clothes on, 
and manage to get along fairly well. Our worst trouble now is 
the lack of grub. The destruction of the railroad has cut off our 
supplies, and there is no telling just exactly how long it may be 
before it will be fixed and in running order again, so they have 



124 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

been compelled, I suppose, to cut down our rations. We get half 
rations of coffee, and quarter rations of hardtack and bacon. What 
we call small rations, such as Yankee beans, rice, and split peas, 
are played out; at least, we don t get any. The hardtack is so 
precious now that the orderly sergeant no longer knocks a box 
open and lets every man help himself, but he stands right over the 
box and counts the number of tacks he gives to every man. I 
never thought I d see the day when army hardtack would be in 
such demand that they d have to be counted out to the soldiers as 
if they were money, but that s what s the matter now. And that 
ain t all. The boys will stand around until the box is emptied, and 
then they will pick up the fragments that have fallen to the ground 
in the divide, and scrape off the mud with their knives, and eat the 
little pieces, and glad to get them. Now and then, to help out the 
sow-belly, we get quarter rations of fresh beef from the carcass of 
a Tennessee steer that the quartermaster manages to lay hands 
on somehow. But it s awful poor beef, lean, slimy, skinny and 
stringy. The boys say that one can throw a piece up against a 
tree, and it will just stick there and quiver and twitch for all the 
world like one of those blue-bellied lizards at home will do when 
you knock him off a fence rail with a stick. 

"I just wish that old Forrest, who is the cause of about all 
this trouble, had to go without anything to eat until he was so 
weak that he would have to be fed with a spoon. Maybe after he 
had been hungry real good for a while he d know how it feels him 
self, and would let our railroads alone. 

"But I want to tell you that I had a real bully Christmas din 
ner, in spite of old Forrest and the whole caboodle. It was just aj 
piece of the greatest good luck I ve had for many a day. 

"When Christmas morning came I was feeling awful blue. In 
spite of all I could do, I couldn t help but think about the good dinJ 
ner you folks at home would have that day, and I pictured it all] 
out in my imagination. Then about every one of the boys had 
something to say about what he would have for Christmas dinner 
if he was home, and they d run over the list of good things till it 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 125 

was almost enough to make one go crazy. To make matters worse, 
just the day before in an old camp I had found some tattered frag 
ments of a New York illustrated newspaper with a whole lot of 

i pictures about Thanksgiving Day in the Army of the Potomac. 
They were shown as sitting around piles of roast turkeys, pump- 

! kin pies, pound cake, and goodness knows what else, and I took it 

! for granted that they would have the same kind of fodder today. 
You see, the men in that army, by means of their railroads, are 
only a few hours from home, and old Forrest is not in their neigh 
borhood, so it is an easy thing for them to have good times. And 
here we were, away down in Tennessee, in the mud and the cold, 

I no tents, on quarter rations, and picking scraps of hardtack out of 

i the mud and eating them it was enough to make a preacher 
swear. But along about noon John Richey came to me and pro 
posed that inasmuch as it was Christmas Day, we should strike 
out and forage for a square meal. It didn t take much persuasion, 
and straightway we sallied forth. I wanted to hunt up the old 
colored woman who gave me the mess of boiled roasting ears 
when we were here last summer, but John said he thought he had 
a better thing than that, and as he is ten years older than I am, I 
knocked under and let him take the lead. 

"About half a mile from our camp, in the outskirts of the 
town, we came to a large, handsome, two-story and a half frame 

i house, with a whole lot of nigger cabins in the rear. John took a 
survey of the premises and said, Lee, right here s our meat/ 
We went into the yard at a little side gate between the big house 
and the nigger quarters, and were steering for one of the cabins, 
when out steps from the back porch of the big house the lady of 
the place herself. That spoiled the whole game ; John whirled in 

i his tracks and commenced to sidle away. But the lady walked to 
wards us and said in a very kind and friendly manner: Do you 
men want anything? Oh, no, ma am, replied John; we just 
came here to see if we could get some of the colored women to do 
some washing for us, but I guess we ll not bother about it today ; 
still backing away as he spoke. But the lady was not satisfied. 

! 



126 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

Looking at us very sharply, she asked: Don t you men want 
something to eat ? My heart gave a great thump at that, but, to 
my inexpressible disgust, John, with his head thrown back and 
nose pointed skyward, answered, speaking very fast, Oh, no, 
ma am, not at all, ma am, a thousand times obleeged, ma am/ and 
continued his sneaking retreat. By this time I had hold of the 
cape of his overcoat and was plucking it in utter desperation. 
John, I said, speaking low, what in thunder do you mean ? This 
is the best chance we ll ever have. I was looking at the lady 
meanwhile in the most imploring manner, and she was regarding 
me with a kind of a pleasant, amused smile on her face. She saw, 
I guess, a mighty dirty looking boy, whose nose and face were 
pinched and blue with hunger, cold, loss of sleep, and hard knocks 
generally, and she brought the business to a head at once. You 
men come right in, she said, as if she was the major-general com 
manding the department. We have just finished our dinner, but 
in a few minutes the servants can have something prepared for 
you, and I think you are hungry. John, with the most aggra 
vating mock modesty that I ever saw in my life, began saying: 
We are very much obleeged, ma am, but we haven t the slightest 

occasion in the world to eat, ma am, and when I couldn t 

stand it any longer for fear he would ruin everything after all. 
Madam, I said please don t pay any attention to what my part 
ner says, for we are most desperately hungry. The lady laughed 
right out at that, and said, I thought so ; come in. 

"She led the way into the basement story of the house, where 
the dining room was, (all the rich people in the South have their 
dining rooms in the basement,) and there was a nice warm room, 
a dining table in the center, with the cloth and dishes yet on it, 
and a big fireplace at one end of the room, where a crackling wood 
fire was burning. I tell you, it was different from our muddy camp 
on the bleak hillside, where the wind blows the smoke from our 
fires of green logs in every direction about every minute of the day. 
I sat down by the fire to warm my hands and feet, which were cold. 
A colored girl came in and commenced to arrange the table, pass- 



THE gTORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 127 

ing back and forth from the dining room to the kitchen, and in a 
short time the lady told us that our dinner was ready, to sit up to 
the table, and eat heartily. We didn t wait for a second invita 
tion that time. And, oh, what a dinner we had! There was a 
great pile of juicy, fried beefsteak, cooked to perfection and ten 
der as chicken; nice, warm light bread, a big cake of butter, 
stewed dried apples, cucumber pickles, two or three kinds of pre 
serves, coffee with sugar and cream, and some of the best molasses 
I ever tasted, none of this sour, scorched old sorghum stuff, but 
regular gilt-edge first class New Orleans goldea syrup, almost as 
sweet as honey. Then, to top off with, there was a nice stewed 
dried apple pie, and some kind of a custard in little dishes, some 
thing different from anything in that line that I had ever seen 
before, but mighty good. And then, in addition to all that, we 
were seated on chairs, at a table with a white cloth on it, and eat 
ing out of china plates and with knives and forks, a colored girl 
waiting on us, and the lady of the house sitting there and talking 
to us as pleasantly as if we were Grant and Halleck in person. Un 
der the influence of the good grub, John thawed out considerably, 
and made a full confession to the lady about his queer actions at 
the beginning. He told her that we were going to the nigger quar 
ters to try to get something to eat, and that when she came out 
and gave us such a kind invitation to come in the house, he was 
too much ashamed of our appearance to accept. That we had 
come up from Bolivar about a week before, riding on top of the 
box cars, where we got all covered with smoke, dust, and cinders; 
then ordered out to the front that night, then the fight with For 
rest the next day, then the march towards the Tennessee river and 
back of about forty miles, and since then in camp with no shelter, 
tramping around in the mud, and sleeping on the ground ; that on 
account of all these things we looked so rough and so dirty that he 
just felt ashamed to go into a nice house where handsome, well- 
dressed ladies were. Oh! I tell you, old John is no slouch; he 
patched up matters remarkably well. The lady listened atten 
tively, said she knew we were hungry the moment she saw us, 



128 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

that she had heard the soldiers were on short rations in conse 
quence of the destruction of the railroad, and turning towards me 
she went on to say: There was such a pitiful, hungry look on 
this boy s face that it would have haunted me for a long time if 
I had let you go away without giving you a dinner. Many a hun 
gry soldier/ she continued, both of the Northern and Southern 
army, has had something to eat at this table, and I expect many 
more will in the future, before this terrible and distressing war 
shall have come to an end/ She didn t say a word, though, by 
which we could teli whether her sympathies were on the Union 
side or against us, and of course we didn t try to find out. She was 
just the sweetest looking woman I have yet seen in the whole 
Southern Confederacy. If they have any angels anywhere that 
look kinder, or sweeter, or purer than she did, I would just like 
to see them trotted out. I guess she was about thirty-five years 
old. She was of medium height, a little on the plump order, with 
blue eyes, brown hair, a clear, ruddy complexion, and the whitest, 
softest looking little hands I ever saw in my life. 

"When we had finished our dinner, John and I thanked her 
ever so many times for her kindness, and then bade her a most 
respectful good-by. He and I both agreed on our way back to camp 
to say nothing about the lady and the nice dinner she gave us, 
because if we blowed about it, the result would probably be more 
hungry callers than her generosity could well afford. 

"But these close times I guess are not going to last much 
longer. The talk in camp this evening is that we are going to 
have full rations once more in a day or two, that the railroad will 
soon be in running order again, and then we can just snap our 
fingers at old Forrest and his whole outfit. 

"Well, I will bring my letter to a close. Don t worry if you 
fail to get a letter from me now as regularly as before. Things 
are a trifle unsettled down here yet, and we may not be able to 
count on the usual regularity of the mails for some time to come. 

"So goodby for this time. 

"LEANDER STILLWELL." 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 129 

Soon after we returned to Jackson a detail of some from each 
company was sent to Bolivar and brought up our knapsacks and 
blankets, and we were then more comfortable. On December 29th, 
my company and two others of our regiment were sent by rail to 
Carroll Station, about eight miles north of Jackson. There had 
been a detachment of about a hundred men of the 106th Illinois 
Infantry previously stationed here, guarding the railroad, but 
Forrest captured them about December 20th, so on our arrival we 
found nothing but a crude sort of stockade, and the usual rubbish 
of an old camp. There was no town there, it consisted only of a 
platform and a switch. Our life here was somewhat uneventful, 
and I recall now only two incidents which, possibly, are worth no 
ticing. It has heretofore been mentioned how I happened to learn 
when on picket at night something about the nocturnal habits of 
different animals and birds. I had a somewhat comical experience 
in this respect while on guard one night near Carroll" Station. But 
it should be preceded by a brief explanation. It was no part of the 
duty of a non-commissioned officer to stand a regular tour of 
guard duty, with his musket in his hands. It was his province sim 
ply to exercise a general supervisory control over the men at his 
post, and especially to see that they relieved each other at the 
proper time. But it frequently happened in our regiment that our 
numbers present for duty were so diminished, and the guard details 
were so heavy, that the sergeants and corporals had to stand as 
sentries just the same as the privates, and this was especially so 
at Carroll Station. 

On the occasion of the incident about to be mentioned, the 
picket post was on the crest of a low ridge, or slight elevation, 
and under some big oak trees by an old tumble-down deserted build 
ing which had at one time been a blacksmith shop. There were 
three of us on this post, and one of my turns came at midnight. I 
was standing by one of the trees, listening, looking, and meditat 
ing. The night was calm, with a full moon. The space in our 
front, sloping down to a little hollow, was bare, but the ascending 
ground beyond was covered with a dense growth of young oaks 



130 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

which had not yet shed their leaves. We had orders to be ex 
tremely watchful and vigilant, as parties of the enemy were sup 
posed to be in our vicinity. Suddenly I heard in front, and seem 
ingly in the farther edge of the oak forest, a rustling sound that 
soon increased in volume. Whatever was making the noise was 
coming my way, through the trees, and down the slope of the op 
posite ridge. The noise grew louder, and louder, until it sounded 
just like the steady tramp, over the leaves and dead twigs, of a 
line of marching men, with a front a hundred yards in width. I 
just knew there must be trouble ahead, and that the Philistines 
were upon me. But a sentinel who made a false alarm while on 
duty was liable to severe punishment, and, at any rate, -, ou\d be 
laughed at all over the regiment, and never hear the last of it. So 
I didn t wake up my comrades, but got in the shadow of the trunk 
of a tree, cocked my gun, and awaited developments. And soon 
they came. The advancing line emerged from the forest into the 
moonlight, and it was nothing but a big drove of hogs out on a 
midnight foraging expedition for acorns and the like! Well, I let 
down the hammer of my gun, and felt relieved, and was mighty 
glad I hadn t waked the other boys. But I still insist that this 
crackling, crashing uproar, made by the advance of the "hog bat 
talion" through the underbrush and woods, under the circum 
stances mentioned, would have deceived "the very elect." 

A few days later I was again on picket at the old blacksmith 
shop. Our orders were that at least once during the day one of 
the guard should make a scout out in front for at least half a mile, 
carefully observing all existing conditions, for the purpose of as 
certaining if any parties of the enemy were hovering around in 
our vicinity. On this day, after dinner, I started out alone, on 
this little reconnoitering expedition. I had gone something more 
than half a mile from the post, and was walking along a dirt road 
with a cornfield on the left, and big woods on the right. About a 
hundred yards in front, the road turned square to the left, with a 
cornfield on each side. The corn had been gathered from the 
stalk, and the stalks were still standing. Glancing to the left, I 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 131 

happened to notice a white cloth fluttering above the cornstalks, 
at the end of a pole, and slowly moving my way. And peering 
through the tops of the stalks I saw coming down the road behind 
the white flag about a dozen Confederate cavalry! I broke into a 
run, and soon reached the turn in the road, cocked my gun, leveled 
it at the party, and shouted, "Halt !" They stopped, mighty quick, 
and the bearer of the flag called to me that they were a flag of 
truce party. I then said, "Advance, One." Whereupon they all 
started forward. I again shouted "Halt!" and repeated the com 
mand, "Advance, One!" The leader then rode up alone, I keeping 
my gun cocked, and at a ready, and he proceeded to tell me a sort 
of rambling, disjointed story about their being a flag of truce par 
ty, on business connected with an exchange of some wounded pris 
oners. I told the fellow that I would conduct him and his squad 
to my picket post, and then send word to our commanding officer, 
and he would take such action as he thought fit and proper. On 
reaching the post, I sent in one of the guards to the station to re 
port to Lieut. Armstrong, in command of our detachment, that 
there was a flag of truce party at my post who desired an inter 
view with the officer in command at Carroll Station. The Lieu 
tenant soon arrived with an armed party of our men, and he and 
the Confederate leader drew apart and talked awhile. This bunch 
of Confederates were all young men, armed with double-barreled 
shot-guns, and a decidedly tough-looking outfit. They finally left 
my post, escorted by Lieut. Armstrong and his guard, and I under 
stood in a general way that he passed them on to someone higher 
in authority at some other point in our vicinity, possibly at Jack 
son. They may have been acting in good faith, but from the man 
ner of their leader, and the story he told me, I have always believed 
that their use of a flag of truce was principally a device to obtain 
some military intelligence, but, of course, I do not know. My re 
sponsibility ended when Lieut. Armstrong reached my picket post 
in response to the message sent him. 

We remained at Carroll Station until January 27, 1863, were 
then relieved by a detachment of the 62nd Illinois Infantry, and 



132 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

were sent by rail back to Bolivar, where we rejoined the balance 
of the regiment. We then resumed our former duty of guarding 
the railroad north to Toone s Station, and continued at this until 
the last of May, 1863. But before taking up what happened then, 
it will be in order to speak of some of the changes that in the mean 
time had occurred among the commissioned officers of my com 
pany and of the regiment. Capt. Reddish resigned April 3rd, 
1863, First Lieutenant Daniel S. Keeley was promoted Captain in 
his place, and Thomas J. Warren, the sergeant-major of the regi 
ment, was commissioned as First Lieutenant in Keeley s stead. 
Lieut. Col. Fry resigned May 14, 1863. His place was taken by 
Major Simon P. Ohr, and Daniel Grass, Captain of Co. H, was made 
Major. The resignations of both Fry and Reddish, as I always have 
understood, were because of ill-health. They were good and brave 
men, and their hearts were in the cause, but they simply were too 
old to endure the fatigue and hardships of a soldier s life. But 
they each lived to a good old age. Col. Fry died in Greene county, 
Illinois, January 27th, 1881, aged nearly 82 years ; and Capt. Red 
dish passed away in Dallas county, Texas, December 30th, 1881, 
having attained the Psalmist s limit of three score and ten. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 133 



CHAPTER X. 



THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG. JUNE AND JULY, 1863. 

General Grant closed up against Vicksburg on May 19, and on 
that day assaulted the Confederate defenses of the place, but with 
out success. On the 22nd a more extensive assault was made, but 
it also failed, and it was then evident to Grant that Vicksburg 
would have to be taken by a siege. To do this he would need strong 
reinforcements, and they were forthwith sent him from various 
quarters. So it came to pass that we went also. On May 31st we 
climbed on the cars, headed for Memphis, and steamed away from 
old Bolivar and I have never seen the place since. For my part, 
I was glad to leave. We had been outside of the main track of the 
war for several months, guarding an old railroad, while the bulk 
of the western army had been actively engaged in the stirring and 
brilliant campaign against Vicksburg, and we were all becoming 
more or less restless and dissatisfied. From my standpoint, one of 
the most mortifying things that can happen to a soldier in time 
of war is for his regiment to be left somewhere as a "guard," while 
his comrades of the main army are in the field of active operations, 
seeing and doing "big things," that will live in history. But, as 
before remarked, the common soldier can only obey orders, and 
while some form the moving column, others necessarily have sta 
tionary duties. But at last the old 61st Illinois was on the wing, 
and the Mississippi Central Railroad could "go hang." 

The regiment at this time was part of Gen. Nathan KimbalPs 
division of the 16th Corps, and the entire division left Tennessee 
to reinforce Grant at Vicksburg. We arrived at Memphis in the 
afternoon of the same day we left Bolivar, the distance between 
the two places being only about 72 miles. The regiment bivouacked 
that night on a sandbar on the water front of Memphis, which said 
bar extended from the water s edge back to a high, steep sand- 



134 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and-clay bank. And that, by the way, is the only night I have ever 
spent within the limits of the city of Memphis. While we were 
there on this occasion, I witnessed a pathetic incident, which is yet 
as fresh and vivid in my memory as if it had happened only yester 
day. Soon after our arrival I procured a pass for a few hours, and 
took a stroll through the city. While thus engaged I met two 
hospital attendants carrying on a stretcher a wounded Union sol 
dier. They halted as I approached, and rested the stretcher on the 
sidewalk. An old man was with them, apparently about sixty 
years old, of small stature and slight frame, and wearing the garb 
of a civilian. I stopped, and had a brief conversation with one of 
the stretcher-bearers. He told me that the soldier had been wound 
ed in one of the recent assaults by the Union troops on the defenses 
of Vicksburg, and, with others of our wounded, had just arrived 
at Memphis on a hospital boat. That the old gentleman present 
was the father of the wounded boy, and having learned at his home 
in some northern State of his son being wounded, had started to 
Vicksburg to care for him ; that the boat on which he was journey 
ing had rounded in at the Memphis wharf next to the above men 
tioned hospital boat, and that he happened to see his son in the act 
of being carried ashore, and thereupon at once went to him, and 
was going with him to a hospital in the city. But the boy was 
dying, and that was the cause of the halt made by the stretcher- 
bearers. The soldier was quite young, seemingly not more than 
eighteen years old. He had an orange, which his father had given 
him, tightly gripped in his right hand, which was lying across his 
breast. But, poor boy! it was manifest that that orange would 
never be tasted by him, as the glaze of death was then gathering 
on his eyes, and he was in a semi-unconscious condition. And the 
poor old father was fluttering around the stretcher, in an aimless, 
distracted manner, wanting to do something to help his boy but 
the time had come when nothing could be done. While thus oc 
cupied I heard him say in a low, broken voice, "He is the only 
boy I have." This was on one of the principal streets of the city, 
and the sidewalks were thronged with people, soldiers and civilians, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 135 

rushing to and fro on their various errands, and what was hap 
pening at this stretcher excited no attention beyond careless, pass 
ing glances. A common soldier was dying, that was all, nothing 
but "a leaf in the storm." But for some reason or other the inci 
dent impressed me most sadly and painfully. I didn t wait for the 
end, but hurried away, tried to forget the scene, but couldn t. 

On the evening of June 1st we filed on board the big, side- 
wheel steamer "Luminary," which soon cast off from the wharf, 
and in company with other transports crowded with soldiers, went 
steaming down the Mississippi. Co. D, as usual, was assigned to a 
place on the hurricane deck of the boat. After we had stacked 
arms, and hung our belts on the muzzles of the guns, I hunted up 
a corner on the forward part of the deck, sat down, looked at the 
river and the scenery along the banks, and thought. There came 
vividly to my mind the recollection of the time, about fourteen 
months previous, when we started out from St. Louis, down the 
"Father of Waters," bound for the "seat of war." The old regi 
ment, in every respect, had greatly changed since that time. Then 
we were loud, confident, and boastful. Now we had become alto 
gether more quiet and grave in our demeanor. We had gradually 
realized that it was not a Sunday school picnic excursion we were 
engaged in, but a desperate and bloody war, and what the individual 
fate of each of us might be before it was over, no one could tell. 
There is nothing which, in my opinion, will so soon make a man 
out of a boy as actual service in time of war. Our faces had in 
sensibly taken on a stern and determined look, and soldiers who a 
little over a year ago were mere laughing, foolish boys, were now 
sober, steady, self-relying men. We had been taking lessons in 
what was, in many important respects, the best school in the world. 

Our voyage down the river was uneventful. We arrived at the 
mouth of the Yazoo river on the evening of June 3rd. There our 
fleet turned square to the left, and proceeded up that stream. Near 
the mouth of the Chickasaw Bayou, the fleet landed on the left bank 
of the stream, the boats tied up for the night, we went on the shore 
and bivouacked there that night. It was quite a relief to get on 



136 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

solid ground, and where we could stretch our legs and stroll around 
a little. Next morning we re-embarked at an early hour, and con 
tinued up the Yazoo. During the forenoon we learned from one of 
the boat s crew that we were approaching a point called "Alligator 
Bend," and if we would be on the lookout we would see some alli 
gators. None of us, so far as I know, had ever seen any of those 
creatures, and, of course, we were all agog to have a view of them. 
A few of the best shots obtained permission from the officers to 
try their muskets on the reptiles, in case any showed up. On reach 
ing the bend indicated, there were the alligators, sure enough, 
lazily swimming about, and splashing in the water. They were 
sluggish, ugly looking things, and apparently from six to eight feet 
long. Our marksmen opened fire at once. I had read in books at 
home that the skin of an alligator was so hard and tough that it 
was impervious to an ordinary rifle bullet. That may have been 
true as regards the round balls of the old small-bore rifle, but it 
was not the case with the conical bullets of our hard-hitting mus 
kets. The boys would aim at a point just behind the fore-shoulder, 
the ball would strike the mark with a loud "whack," a jet of blood 
would spurt high in the air, the alligator would give a convulsive 
flounce, and disappear. It had doubtless got its medicine. But 
this "alligator practice" didn t last long. Gen. Kimball, on learn 
ing the cause, sent word mighty quick from the headquarters boat 
to "Stop that firing!" and we stopped. 

About noon on the 4th we arrived at the little town of Satartia 
on the left bank of the Yazoo, and about 40 miles above its mouth ; 
there the fleet halted, tied up, and the troops debarked, and marched 
out to the highlands back of the town. We were now in a region 
that was new to us, and we soon saw several novel and strange 
things. There was a remarkable natural growth, called "Spanish 
moss," that was very plentiful, and a most fantastic looking thing. 
It grew on nearly all the trees, was of a grayish-white color, with 
long, pendulous stems. The lightest puff of air would set it in mo 
tion, and on a starlight night, or when the moon was on the wane 
and there was a slight breeze, it presented a most ghostly and un- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 137 

canny appearance. And the woods were full of an unusual sort of 
squirrels, being just as black as crows. They were in size, as I now 
remember, of a grade intermediate the fox- and gray-squirrels we 
had at home. But all their actions and habits appeared to be just 
the same as those of their northern cousins. And there was a most 
singular bird of the night that was quite numerous here, called the 
"chuck-will s widow," on account of the resemblance its note bore 
to those words. It belonged to the whippoorwill family, but was 
some larger. It would sound its monotonous call in the night for 
hours at a stretch, and I think its mournful cry, heard when alone, 
on picket at night out in dense, gloomy woods, is just the most 
lonesome, depressing strain I ever heard. 

On the afternoon of the 4th all our force advanced in the di 
rection of the little town of Mechanicsburg, which lay a few miles 
back of the river. Those in the front encountered Confederate 
cavalry, and a lively little skirmish ensued, in which our regiment 
was not engaged. Our troops burnt Mechanicsburg, and captured 
about forty of the Confederates. I was standing by the side of the 
road when these prisoners were being taken to the rear. They 
were all young chaps, fine, hearty looking fellows, and were the best 
looking little bunch of Confederates I saw during the war. Early 
in the morning of June 6th we fell into line and marched southwest, 
in the direction of Vicksburg. Our route, in the main, was down 
the valley of the Yazoo river. And it will be said here that this 
was the hottest, most exhausting march I was on during my entire 
service. In the first place, the weather was intensely hot. Then 
the road down the valley on which we marched mostly ran through 
immense fields of corn higher than our heads. The fields next the 
road were not fenced, and the corn grew close to the beaten track. 
Not the faintest breeze was stirring, and the hot, stifling dust en 
veloped us like a blanket. Every now and then we would pass a 
soldier lying by the side of the road, overcome by the heat and un 
conscious, while one or two of his comrades would be standing by 
him, bathing his face and chest with -water, and trying to revive 
him. I put green hickory leaves in my cap, and kept them well 



138 THE STORY OF AfCOMMON SOLDIER. 

saturated with water from my canteen. The leaves would retain 
the moisture and keep my head cool, and when they became stale 
and withered, would be thrown away, and fresh ones procured. 
Several men died on this march from sun-stroke; none, however, 
from our regiment, but we all suffered fearfully. And pure drink 
ing water was very scarce too. It was pitiful to see the men strug 
gling for water at the farm house wells we occasionally passed. In 
their frenzied desperation they would spill much more than they 
saved, and ere long would have the well drawn dry. But one re 
deeming feature about this march was we were not hurried. There 
were frequent halts, to give the men time to breathe, and on such 
occasions, if we were fortunate enough to find a pool of stagnant 
swamp-water, we would wash the dirt and dust from our faces 
and out of our eyes. 

As we trudged down the Yazoo valley, we continued to see 
things that were new and strange. We passed by fields of grow 
ing rice, and I saw many fig trees, loaded with fruit, but which 
was yet green. And in the yards of the most of the farm houses 
was a profusion of domestic flowers, such as did not bloom in the 
north, of wonderful color and beauty. But, on the other hand, on 
the afternoon of the second day s march, I happened to notice by 
the side of the road an enormous rattlesnake, which evidently had 
been killed by some soldier only a short time before we passed. 
It seemingly was between five and six feet long, and the middle of 
its body appeared to be as thick as a man s thigh. Its rattles had 
been removed, presumably as a trophy. It was certainly a giant 
among rattlesnakes, and doubtless was an "old-timer." 

On the evening of June 7th, about sundown, we arrived at 
Haines Bluff on the Yazoo river, and there went into camp. This 
point was about twelve miles north of Vicksburg, and had been 
strongly fortified by the Confederates, but Grant s movements had 
compelled them to abandon their works without a battle. There 
had been a large number of the Confederates camped there, and the 
ground was littered with the trash and rubbish that accumulates 
in quarters. And our friends in gray had left some things in these 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 139 

old camps which ere long we all fervently wished they had taken 
with them, namely, a most plentiful quantity of the insect known 
as "Pediculus vestimenti," which forthwith assailed us as vo 
raciously as if they had been on quarter rations, or less, ever since 
the beginning of the war. 

On June 16th we left Haines Bluff, and marched about two 
miles down the Yazoo river to Snyder s Bluff, where we went into 
camp. Our duties here, as they had been at Haines , were standing 
picket, and constructing fortifications. We had the usual dress 
parade" at sunset, but the drills were abandoned; we had more im 
portant work to do. General Joe Johnston, the Confederate com 
mander outside of Vicksburg, was at Jackson, Mississippi, or in 
that immediate vicinity, and was collecting a force to move on 
Grant s rear, in order to compel him to raise the siege. Grant 
thought that if Johnston attacked, it would be from the northeast, 
so he established a line of defense extending southeast, from 
Haines Bluff on the north to Black river on the south, and placed 
Gen. Sherman in command of this line. As Grant has said some 
where in his Memoirs, the country in this part of Mississippi 
"stands on edge." That is to say, it consists largely of a succes 
sion of high ridges with sharp, narrow summits. Along this line 
of defense, the general course of these ridges was such that they 
were admirably adapted for defensive purposes. We went to work 
on the ridges with spades and mattocks, and constructed the strong 
est field fortifications that I ever saw during the war. We dug 
away the crests, throwing the dirt to the front, and made long 
lines of breastworks along our entire front, facing, of course, the 
northeast. Then, at various places, on commanding points, were 
erected strong redoubts for artillery, floored, and revetted on the 
inner walls with thick and strong green lumber and timbers. On 
the exterior slopes of the ridges were dug three lines of trenches, 
or rifle pits, extending in a parallel form from near the base of the 
ridges almost to the summit, with intervals between the lines. All 
the trees and bushes in our front on the slopes of the ridges were 
cut down, with their tops outwards, thus forming a tangled abattis 



140 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

which looked as if a rabbit could hardly get through. And 
finally, on the inner slope of the ridges, a little below their sum 
mits, was constructed a "covered way;" that is, a road dug along 
the sides of the ridges, and over which an army, with batteries of 
artillery, could have marched with perfect safety. The purpose of 
these covered ways was to have a safe and sheltered road right 
along our rear by which any position on the line could be promptly 
reinforced, if necessary. 

Sometimes I would walk along the parapet of our works, look 
ing off to the northeast where the Confederates were supposed to 
be, and I ardently wished that they would attack us. Our defenses 
were so strong that in my opinion it would have been a physical im 
possibility for flesh and blood to have carried them. Had Johnston 
tried, he simply would have sacrificed thousands of his men with 
out accomplishing anything to his own advantage. 

It will be said here that I have no recollection of having per 
sonally taken part in the construction of the fortifications above 
mentioned. In fact, I never did an hour s work in the trenches, 
with spade and mattock, during all my time. I never "took" 
willingly to that kind of soldiering. But there were plenty of the 
boys who preferred it to standing picket, because when on fatigue 
duty, as it was called, they would quit about sundown, and then get 
an unbroken night s sleep. So, when it fell to my lot to be detailed 
for fatigue, I would swap with someone who had been assigned to 
picket, he would do my duty, and I would perform his; we were 
both satisfied, and the fair inference is that no harm was thereby 
done to the cause. And it was intensely interesting to me, when 
on picket at night on the crest of some high ridge, to stand and 
listen to the roar of our cannon pounding at Vicksburg, and watch 
the flight of the shells from Grant s siege guns and from the heavy 
guns of our gunboats on the Mississippi. The shells they threw 
seemed principally to be of the "fuse" variety, and the burning 
fuse, as the shell flew through the air, left a stream of bright red 
light behind it like a rocket. I would lean on my gun and contem 
plate the spectacle with far more complacency and satisfaction 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 141 

than was felt when anxiously watching the practice on us by the 
other fellows at Salem Cemetery about six months before. 

There was another thing I was wont to observe with peculiar 
attention, when on picket at night during the siege; namely, the 
operations of the Signal Corps. In the night time they used lighted 
lanterns in the transmission of intelligence, and they had a code 
by which the signals could be read with practically the same ac 
curacy as if they had been printed words. The movements of the 
lights looked curious and strange, something elf-like, with a sus 
picion of witchcraft, or deviltry of some kind, about them. They 
would make all sorts of gyrations, up, down, a circle, a half circle 
to the right, then one to the left, and so on. Sometimes they would 
be unusually active. Haines Bluff would talk to Snyder s ; Snyder s 
to Sherman s headquarters; Sherman s to Grant s, and back and 
forth, all along the line. Occasionally at some station the lights 
would act almost like some nervous man talking at his highest 
speed in a perfect splutter of excitement, and then they would 
seem as if drunk, or crazy. Of course, I knew nothing of the code 
of interpretation, and so understood nothing, could only look and 
speculate. In modern warfare the telephone has probably super 
seded the Signal Service, but the latter certainly played an im 
portant part in our Civil War. 

During the siege we lived high on some comestibles not in 
cluded in the regular army rations. Corn was in the roasting ear 
state, and there were plenty of big fields of it beyond and near the 
picket lines, and we helped ourselves liberally. Our favorite meth 
od of cooking the corn was to roast it in the "shuck." We would 
"snap" the ears from the stalk, leaving the shuck intact, daub over 
the outside a thin plaster of mud (or sometimes just saturate the 
ears in water), then cover them with hot ashes and live coals. By 
the time the fire had consumed the shuck down to the last or in 
ner layer, the corn was done, and it made most delicious eating. 
We had no butter to spread on it, but it was good enough without. 
And then the blackberries! I have never seen them so numerous 
and so large as they were there on those ridges in the rear of 



142 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

Vicksburg. I liked them best raw, taken right from the vine, but 
sometimes, for a change, would stew them in my coffee can, adding 
a little sugar, and prepared in this manner they were fine. But, 
like the darkey s rabbit, they were good any way. The only 
serious drawback that we had on our part of the line was the un 
usual amount of fatal sickness that prevailed among the men. The 
principal types of disease were caimp diarrhea and malarial fevers, 
resulting, in all probability, largely from the impure water we 
drank. At first we procured water from shallow and improvised 
wells that we dug in the hollows and ravines. Wild cane grew 
luxuriantly in this locality, attaining a height of fifteen or twenty 
feet, and all other wild vegetation was rank in proportion. The 
annual growth of all this plant life had been dying and rotting on 
the ground for ages, and the water would filter through this de 
composing mass, and become well-nigh poisonous. An order was 
soon issued that we should get all water for drinking and cooking 
purposes from the Yazoo river, and boil it before using, but it was 
impossible to compel complete obedience to such an order. When 
men got thirsty, they would drink whatever was handy, orders 
to the contrary notwithstanding. And the water of the river was 
about as bad as the swamp water. I have read somewhere that 
"Yazoo" is an Indian word, signifying "The River of Death," and 
if so, it surely was correctly named. It is just my opinion, as a 
common soldier, that the epidemic of camp diarrhea could have 
been substantially prevented if all the men had eaten freely of 
blackberries. I didn t have a touch of that disorder during all the 
time we were in that locality, and I attribute my immunity to the 
fact that I ate liberally of blackberries about every day. But camp 
diarrhea is something that gets in its work quick, and after the 
men got down with it, they possibly had no chance to get the 
berries. And all the time we were at Snyder, nearly every hour 
of the day, could be heard the doleful, mournful notes of the "Dead 
March," played by the military bands, as some poor fellow was 
being taken to his long home. It seemed to me at the time, and 
seems so yet, that they should have left out that piece of music. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 143 

It did no good, and its effect was very depressing, especially on the 
sick. Under such circumstances, it would seem that common sense, 
if exercised, would have dictated the keeping dumb of such sadden 
ing funeret strains, 

Sometime during the latter part of June the regiment was 
paid two months pay by Major C. L. Bernay, a Paymaster of the 
U. S. Army. He was a fine old German, of remarkably kind and 
benevolent appearance, and looked more like a venerable Catholic 
priest than a military man. After he had paid off the regiment, 
his escort loaded his money chest and his personal stuff into an 
ambulance, and he was soon ready to go to some other regiment. 
Several of our officers had assembled to bid him good-by, and I 
happened to be passing along, and witnessed what transpired. The 
few farewell remarks of the old iman were punctuated by the roar 
of the big guns of our army and navy pounding away at Vicksburg, 
and the incident impressed me as somewhat pathetic. "Goot-by, 
Colonel," said Major Bernay, extending his hand; (Boom!) "Goot- 
by Major;" (Boom!) "Goot-by, Captain;" (Boom!) and so on, to 
the others. Then, with a wave of his hand to all the little group, 
"Goot>-by, shentlemens, all." (Boom!) Maybe so (Boom!) we 
meet not again." (Boom, boom, boom!) It was quite apparent 
that he was thinking of the so-called "fortunes of war." Then he 
sprang into his ambulance, and drove away. His prediction proved 
true we never met again. 

The morning of the Fourth of July opened serene and peace 
ful, more so, in fact, than in old times at home, for with us not 
even the popping of a fire-cracker was heard. And the stillness 
south of us continued as the day wore on, the big guns of the 
army and navy remained absolutely quiet. Our first thought was 
that because the day was a national holiday, Grant had ordered a 
cessation of the firing in order to give his soldiers a day of needed 
rest. It was not until some time in the afternoon that a rumor 
began to circulate among the common soldiers that Vicksburg had 
surrendered, and about sundown we learned that such was the fact. 
So far as I saw or heard, we indulged in no whooping or yelling 



144 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

over the event. We had been confident, all the time, that the thing 
would finally happen, so we were not taken by surprise. There 
was a feeling of satisfaction and relief that the end had come, but 
we took it coolly and as a matter of course. 

On the same day that Vicksburg surrendered Grant started 
the greater part of his army, under the command of Gen. Sherman, 
in the direction of Jackson for the purpose of attacking Gen. John 
ston. Our division, however, remained at Snyder s until July 12th, 
when we left there, marching southeast. I remember this march 
especially, from the fact that the greater part of it was made dur 
ing the night. This was done in order to avoid the excessive 
heat that prevailed in the daytime. As we plodded along after sun 
set, at route step, and arms at will, a low hum of conversation 
could be heard, and occasionally a loud laugh, "that spoke the vacant 
mind." By ten o clock we were tired (we had been on the road 
since noon), and moreover, getting very sleepy. Profound silence 
now prevailed in the ranks, broken only by the rattle of canteens 
against the shanks of the bayonets, and the heavy, monotonous 
tramp of the men. As Walter Scott has said somewhere in one of 
his poetical works: 

"No cymbal clashed, no clarion rang, 
Still were the pipe and drum ; 
Save heavy tread and armor s clang, 
The sullen march was dumb." 

The column halted about midnight, we bivouacked in the 
woods by the side of the road, and I was asleep about as soon as 
I struck the ground. 

We resumed the march early in the morning, and during the 
forenoon arrived at Messinger s ford, on Black river, where we 
went into camp. We remained here only until July 17, and on that 
day marched a few miles south to the railroad crossing on Black 
river, and bivouacked on the west bank of the stream. The Con 
federates during the campaign had thrown up breastworks of cot 
ton bales, which evidently had extended for quite a distance above 
and below the railroad crossing. When our fellows came along 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 145 

they tore open the bales and used the cotton to sleep on, and when 
we arrived at the place the fleecy stuff was scattered over the 
ground, in some places half -knee deep, all over that portion of the 
river bottom. It looked like a big snowfall. Cotton, at that very 
time, was worth one dollar a pound in the New York market, and 
scarce at that. A big fortune was there in the dirt, going to waste, 
but we were not in the cotton business just then, so it made no 
difference to us. At the beginning of the war, it was confidently 
asserted by the advocates of the secession movement that Cotton 
was king;" that the civiFzed world couldn t do without it, and as 
the South had a virtual monopoly of the stuff, the need of it would 
compel the European nations to recognize the independence of the 
Southern Confederacy, and which would thereby result in the 
speedy and complete triumph of the Confederate cause. But in 
thus reasoning they ignored a law of human nature. Men, under 
the pressure of necessity, can get along without many things which 
they have previously regarded as indispensable. At this day, in 
my opinion, many of the alleged wants of mankind are purely arti 
ficial, and we would be better off if they were cut out altogether. 
Aside from various matters of food and drink and absurdities in 
garb and ornaments, numbers of our rich women in eastern cities 
regard life as a failure unless they each possess a thousand dollar 
pet dog, decorated with ribbons and diamond ornaments and hon 
ored at dog-functions with a seat at the table, where, on such oc 
casions, pictures of the dogs, with their female owners sitting by 
them, are taken and reproduced in quarter-page cuts in the Sunday 
editions of the daily papers. If these women would knock the dogs 
in the head and bring into the world legitimate babies, (or even 
illegitimate, for their husbands are probably of the capon breed,) 
then they might be of some use to the human race ; as it is they are 
a worthless, unnatural burlesque on the species. But this has 
nothing to do with the war, or the 61st Illinois, so I will pass on. 

While we were at the Black river railroad bridge thousands 
of paroled Confederate soldiers captured at Vicksburg passed us, 
walking on the railroad track, going eastward. We had strict or- 



146 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

ders to abstain from making to them any insulting or taunting re 
marks, and so far as I saw, these orders were faithfuUy obeyed. 
The Confederates looked hard. They were ragged, sallow, emaci 
ated, and seemed depressed and disconsolate. They went by us 
with downcast looks and in silence. I heard only one of them make 
any remark whatever, and he was a little drummer boy, apparently 
not more than fifteen years old. He tried to say something funny, 
but it was a dismal failure. 

While in camp at the railroad crossing on Black river, a most 
agreeable incident occurred, the pleasure of which has not been 
lessened by the flight of time, but rather augmented. But to com 
prehend it fully, some preliminary explanation might be advisable. 
Before the war there lived a few miles from our home, near the 
Jersey Landing settlement, a quaint and most interesting char 
acter, of the name of Benjamin F. Slaten. He owned and lived on 
a farm, but had been admitted to the bar, and practiced law to 
some extent, as a sort of a side-line. But I think that until after 
the war his practice, in the main, was confined to the courts of jus 
tices of the peace. He was a shrewd, sensible old man, of a remark 
ably kind and genial disposition, but just about the homeliest look 
ing individual I ever saw. And he had a most singular, squeaky 
sort of a voice, with a kind of a nasal twang to it, which if heard 
once could never be forgotten. He was an old friend of my father s, 
and had been his legal adviser (so far as his few and trifling neces 
sities in that line required) from time immemorial. And for a 
year or so prior to the outbreak of the war my thoughts had been 
running much on the science of law, and I had a strong desire, if the 
thing could be accomplished, to sometime be a lawyer myself. So, 
during the period aforesaid, whenever I would meet "Uncle Ben" 
(as we frequently called him), I would have a lot of questions to 
fire at him about some law points, which it always seemed to give 
him much pleasure to answer. I remember yet one statement he 
made to me that later, (and sometimes to my great chagrin,) I 
found out was undeniably true. "Leander," said he, "if ever you 
get into the practice of law, you ll find that it is just plum full of 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 147 

little in-trick-ate pints." (But things are not as bad now in that 
respect as they were then.) The war ensued, and in September, 
1862, he entered the service as Captain of Co. K of the 97th Illinois 
Infantry. He was about forty-two years old at this time. In due 
course of events the regiment was sent south, and became a part 
of the Army ol the Tennessee, but the paths of the 61st and the 
97th were on different lines, and I never met Capt. Slaten in the 
field until the happening of the incident now to be mentioned. 

When we were at Black river I was on picket one night about 
a mile or so from camp, at a point on an old country road. Some 
time shortly after midnight, while I was curled up asleep in a 
corner of the old worm fence by the side of the road, I was sud 
denly awakened by an energetic shake, accompanied by the loud 
calling of my name. I sprang to my feet at once, thinking maybe 
some trouble was afoot, and, to my surprise, saw Capt. Keeley 
standing in front of me, with some other gentleman. "Stillwell," 
said Keeley, "here s an old friend of yours. He wanted to see you, 
and being pressed for time, his only chance for a little visit was to 
come to you on the picket line." My caller stood still, and said 
nothing. I saw that he was an officer, for his shoulder straps were 
plainly visible, but I could not be sure of his rank, for there was 
no moon, and the night was dark. He was wearing an old "sugar- 
loaf" hat, seemingly much decayed, his blouse was covered with 
dust, and, in general, he looked tough. His face was covered with 
a thick, scraggy beard, and under all these circumstances it was 
impossible for me to recognize him. I was very anxious to do so, 
in view of the trouble the officer had taken to come away out on 
the picket line, in the middle of the night, to see me, but I just 
couldn t, and began to stammer a sort of apology about the dark 
ness of the night hindering a prompt recognition, when the "un 
known" gave his head a slant to one side, and, in his never for- 
getable voice, spoke thus to Keeley: "I told you he wouldn t know 
me." "I know you now," said I; "I d recognize that voice if I heard 
it in Richmond! This is Capt. Ben Slaten, of the 97th Illinois;" 
and springing forward I seized his right hand with both of mine, 



148 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

while he threw his left arm about my neck and fairly hugged me. 
It soon came out in the conversation that ensued that his regiment 
had been with Sherman in the recent move on Jackson ; that it was 
now returning with that army to the vicinity of Vicksburg, and 
had arrived at Black river that night; that he had at once hunted 
up the 61st Illinois to have a visit with me, and ascertaining that 
I was on picket, had persuaded Capt. Keeley to come with him to 
the picket line, as his regiment would leave early in the morning 
on the march, hence this would be his only opportunity for a brief 
meeting. And we all certainly had a most delightful visit with the 
old Captain. From the time of his arrival until his departure there 
was no sleeping, by anybody, on that picket post. We sat on the 
ground in a little circ!e around him, and listened to his comical and 
side-splitting stories of army life, and incidents in camp and field 
generally. He was an inimitable story teller, and his peculiar tone 
and manner added immensely to the comicality of his anecdotes. 
And somehow he had the happy faculty of extracting something 
humorous, or absurd, from what the generality of men would have 
regarded as a very serious affair. He did the most of the talking 
that night, while the rest of us sat there and fairly screamed with 
laughter. It was well known and understood that there were no 
armed Confederates in our vicinity, so we ran no risk in being a 
little careless. Finally, when the owls began tuning up for day, 
the old Captain bade us good-by, and trudged away, accompanied by 
Capt. Keeley. 

To fully comprehend this little episode, it is, perhaps, neces 
sary to have some understanding and appreciation of how a soldier 
away down south, far from home and the friends he had left be 
hind, enjoyed meeting some dear old friend of the loved neighbor 
hood of home. It was almost equal to having a short furlough. 

I never again met Capt. Slaten during the war. He came out 
of it alive, with an excellent record, and about thirty-seven years 
after the close died at his old home in Jersey county, Illinois, sin 
cerely regretted and mourned by a large circle of acquaintances and 
friends. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 149 



CHAPTER XI. 



HELENA, ARKANSAS. LIFE IN A HOSPITAL. 
AUGUST, 1863. 

General Sherman soon drove General Johnston out of Jackson, 
and beyond Pearl river, and then his column returned to the vicinity 
of Vicksburg. On July 22nd our division marched back to Snyder s 
Bluff, and resumed our old camp. But we had not been here long 
before it was rumored that we were under marching orders, and 
would soon leave for some point in Arkansas. Sure enough, on 
July 29th we marched to the Yazoo river and filed on board the 
side-wheel steamer "Sultana," steamed down the river to its mouth, 
and there turned up the Mississippi, headed north. I will remark 
here that one of the most tragical and distressing incidents of the 
war was directly connected with a frightful disaster that later be 
fell the above named steamboat. It left Vicksburg for the north 
on or about April 25, 1865, having on board nearly 1900 Union 
soldiers, all of whom (with few exceptions) were paroled pris 
oners. On the morning of April 27th, while near Memphis, the 
boilers of the boat exploded, and it was burnt to the water s edge. 
Over 1100 of these unfortunate men perished in the wreck, in dif 
ferent ways; some scalded to death by escaping steam, some by 
fire, others (and the greatest number) by drowning. Besides the 
soldiers, cabin passengers and members of the boat s crew, to the 
number of about 140, also perished. It was the greatest disaster, 
of that kind, that ever occurred on the Mississippi. 

It may, perhaps, be noticed that the regiment is leaving the 
vicinity of Vicksburg without my saying a word about the appear 
ance, at that time, of that celebrated stronghold. There is good 
reason for it; namely, it so happened that we never were in the 
place. We were close to it, on the north and on the east, but that 



150 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

was all. And I never yet have seen Vicksburg, and it is not prob 
able now that I ever shall. 

We arrived at Helena, Arkansas, on July 31st, debarked and 
went into camp near the bank of the river, about two miles below 
the town. There were no trees in our camp except a few cotton- 
woods; the ground on which we walked, sat, and slept was, in the 
main, just a mass of hot sand, and we got water for drinking and 
cooking purposes from the Mississippi river. The country back 
of the town, and in that immediate vicinity generally, was wild and 
thinly settled, and had already been well-foraged, so we were re 
stricted to the ordinary army diet, of which one of the principal 
items, as usual, was fat sow-belly. I never understood why we 
were not allowed to camp in the woods west of the town. There 
was plenty of high, well-shaded space there, and we soon could 
have sunk wells that would have furnished cool, palatable water. 
But this was not done, and the regiment remained for about two 
weeks camped on the river bank, in the conditions above described. 
A natural result was that numbers of the men were prostrated by 
malarial fever, and this time I happened to be one of them. I now 
approach a painful period of my army career. I just lay there, 
in a hot tent, on the sand, oh, so sick ! But I fought off going to 
the hospital as long as possible. I had a superstitious dread of an 
army hospital. I had seen so many of the boys loaded into am 
bulances, and hauled off to such a place, who never returned, that 
I was determined never to go to one if it could be avoided in any 
honorable way. But the time came when it was a military neces 
sity that I should go, and there was no alternative. The campaign 
that was in contemplation was a movement westward against the 
Confederates under Gen. Sterling Price at Little Rock, with the 
intention of capturing that place and driving the Confederates 
from the State. The officer in command of the Union forces was 
Gen. Frederick Steele. Marching orders were issued, fixing the 
13th of August as the day our regiment would start. All the sick 
who were unable to march (and I was among that number) were 
to be sent to the Division Hospital. So, on the morning before the 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER, 151 

regiment moved, an ambulance drove up to my tent, and some of 
the boys carried me out and put me in the vehicle. Capt. Keeley 
was standing by ; he pressed my hand and said, "Good-by, Stillwell ; 
brace up! You ll be all right soon." I was feeling too wretched to 
talk much ; I only said, "Good-by, Captain," and let it go at that. 
Later, when I rejoined the regiment, Keeley told me that when he 
bade me good-by that morning he never expected to see me again. 
Our Division Hospital, to which I was taken, consisted of a 
little village of wall tents in the outskirts of Helena. The tents 
were arranged in rows, with perhaps from fifteen to twenty in a 
row, with their ends pinned back against the sides, thus making 
an open space down an entire row. The sick men lay on cots, of 
which there was a line on each side of the interior of the tents, 
with a narrow aisle between. I remained at the hospital eight days, 
and was very sick the most of the time, and retain a distinct recol 
lection of only a few things. But, aside from men dying all around 
me, both day and night, nothing important happened. All the ac 
counts that I have read of this movement of Gen. Steele s on Little 
Rock agree in stating that the number of men he left sick at 
Helena and other places between there and Little Rock was ex 
traordinary and beyond all usual proportions. And from what I 
saw myself, I think these statements must be true. And a necessary 
consequence of this heavy sick list was the fact that it must have 
been impossible to give the invalids the care and attention they 
should have received. We had but few attendants, and they were 
soldiers detailed for that purpose who were too feeble to march, 
but were supposed to be capable of rendering hospital service. And 
the medical force left with us was so scanty that it was totally in 
adequate for the duties they were called on to perform. Oh, those 
nights were so long! At intervals in the aisle a bayonet would be 
stuck in the ground with a lighted candle in its socket, and when a 
light went out, say after midnight, it stayed out, and we would toss 
around on those hard cots in a state of semi-darkness until day 
light. If any attendants moved around among us in the later hours 
of the night I never saw them. We had well-water to drink, which. 



152 THE STORY OF A OCMMON SOLDIER. 

of course, was better than that from the river, but it would soon 
become insipid and warm, and sometimes, especially during the 
night, we didn t have enough of that. On one occasion, about mid 
night, soon after I was taken to the hospital, I was burning with 
fever, and became intolerably thirsty for a drink of water. No at 
tendants were in sight, and the candles had all gone out but one 
or two, which emitted only a sort of flickering light that barely 
served to "render darkness visible." My suffering became well- 
nigh unendurable, and I could stand it no longer. I got up and 
staggered to the door of the tent and looking about me saw not far 
away a light gleaming through a tent that stood apart from the 
others. I made my way to it as best I could, and went in. A young 
fellow, maybe an assistant surgeon, was seated at the further end 
of a little desk, writing. My entrance was so quiet that he did not 
hear me, and walking up to him, I said, in a sort of a hollow voice: 
"I want a drink of water." The fellow dropped his pen, and 
nearly fell off his stool. The only garment I had on was a white, 
sleazy sort of cotton bed-gown, which they garbed us all in when 
we were taken to the hospital; and this chap s eyes, as he stared 
at me, looked as if they would pop out of his head. Perhaps he 
thought I was a "gliding ghost." But he got me some water, and 
I drank copiously. I don t clearly remember what followed. It 
seems to me that this man helped me back to my tent, but I am 
not sure. However, I was 1 in the same old cot next morning. 

The fare at the hospital was not of a nature liable to generate 
an attack of the gout, but I reckon those in charge did the best 
they could. The main thing seemed to be a kind of thin soup, with 
some grains of rice, or barley, in it. What the basis of it was I 
don t know. I munched a hardtack occasionally, which was far bet 
ter than the soup. But my appetite was quite scanty, anyhow. 
One day we each had at dinner, served in our tin plates, about two 
or three tablespoonfuls of preserved currants, for which it was said 
we were indebted to the U. S. Sanitary Commission. It seemed 
that a boat load of such goods came down the river, in charge of 
a committee of ladies, destined for our hospitals at Vicksburg. The 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER, 153 

boat happened to make a temporary stop at Helena, and the ladies 
ascertained that there was at the hospitals there great need of 
sanitary supplies, so they donated us the bulk of their cargo. I 
will remark here that that little dab of currants was all the U. S. 
Sanitary stuff I consumed during my army service. I am not kick 
ing; merely stating the fact. Those goods very properly went to 
the hospitals, and as my stay therein was brief, my share of the 
delicacies was consequently correspondingly slight. 

As regards the medicine given us in the hospital at Helena, 
my recollection is that it was almost entirely quinine, and the doses 
were frequent and copious, which I suppose was all right. 

There was a boy in my company of about my age ; a tall, lanky 
chap, named John Barton. He had lived in our neighborhood at 
home, and we were well acquainted prior to our enlistment. He was 
a kind hearted, good sort of a fellow, but he had, while in the army, 
one unfortunate weakness, the same being a voracious appetite 
for intoxicating liquor. And he had a remarkable faculty for get 
ting the stuff, under any and all circumstances. He could nose it 
out, in some way, as surely and readily as a bear could find a bee- 
tree. But to keep the record straight, I will further say that after 
his discharge he turned over a new leaf, quit the use of whisky, and 
lived a strictly temperate life. He was "under the weather" when 
the regiment left Helena, and so was detailed to serve as a nurse 
at the hospital, and was thus engaged in my tent. Since making 
that bad break at Owl Creek I had avoided whisky as if it were a 
rattlesnake, but somehow, while here in the hospital, I began to 
feel an intense craving for some "spiritus frumenti," as the sur 
geons called it. So one day I asked John Barton if he couldn t get 
me a canteenful of whisky. He said he didn t know, was afraid it 
would be a difficult job, but to give him my canteen, and he would 
try. That night, as late maybe as one or two o clock, and when the 
lights were nearly all out, as usual, I heard some one stealthily 
walking up the aisle, and stopping occasionally at different cots, 
and presently I heard a hoarse whisper, "Stillwell! Stillwell!" 
"Here!" I answered, in the same tone. The speaker then came to 



154 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

me, it was old John, and stooping down, he whispered, "By God, 
I ve got it!" "Bully for you, John!" said I. He raised me to a 
sitting posture, removed the cork, and put the mouth of the can 
teen to my lips, and I drank about as long as I could hold my 
breath. John took a moderate swig himself, then carefully put the 
canteen in my knapsack, which was serving as my pillow, cautioned 
me to keep it concealed to avoid its being stolen, and went away. 
1 was asleep in about five minutes after my head struck my knap 
sack, and slept all the balance of the night just like a baby. On 
waking up, I felt better, too, and wanted something to eat. How 
ever, let no one think, who may read these lines, that I favor the 
use of whisky as a medicine, for I don t. But the situation in those 
Helena hospitals was unusual and abnormal. The water was bad, 
our food was no good and very unsatisfactory, and the conditions 
generally were simply wretched. I am not blaming the military 
authorities. They doubtless did the best they could. It seemed to 
me that I was getting weaker every day. It looked as if something 
had to be done, and acting on the maxim that "desperate cases re 
quire desperate remedies," I resorted for the time being to the 
whisky treatment. I made one unsuccessful attempt afterwards to 
get some to serve as a tonic, which perhaps may be mentioned later, 
and then forever abandoned the use of the stuff for any purpose. 
Immediately succeeding the above mentioned incident, the 
fever let up on me, and I began to get better, though still very 
weak. My great concern, right now, was to rejoin the regiment 
just as soon as possible. It was taking part in an active campaign, 
in which fighting was expected, and the idea was intolerable that 
the other boys should be at the front, marching and fighting, while 
I was in the rear, playing the part of a "hospital pimp." It 
was reported that a steamboat was going to leave soon, via Missis 
sippi and White rivers, with convalescents for Steele s army, and I 
made up my mind to go on that boat, at all hazards. But to ac 
complish that it was necessary, as I was informed, to get a written 
permit from the Division Surgeon, Maj. Shuball York, of the 54th 
Illinois Infantry. So one morning, bright and early, I blacked my 



THE STORY OF A COMMON FOJDIER. 155 

shoes and brushed up my old cap and clothing generally, and start 
ed to Maj. York s headquarters to get the desired permission. He 
was occupying a large two-story house, with shade trees in the 
yard, in the residence part of town, and his office was in the parlor, 
in the first story of the building. I walked in, and found an officer 
of the rank of Major seated at a table, engaged in writing. I re 
moved my cap and, standing at attention, saluted him, and asked 
if this was Maj. York, and was answered in the affirmative. I had 
my little speech carefully prepared, and proceeded at once to de 
liver it, as follows : 

"My name is Leander Stillwell; I am a sergeant of Co. D, of 
the 61st Illinois Infantry, which is now with Gen. Steele s army. 
The regiment marched about a week ago, and, as I was then sick 
with a fever, I could not go, but was sent to the Division Hospital, 
here in Helena. I am now well, and have come to you to request a 
permit to enable me to rejoin my regiment." 

The Major looked at me closely while I was speaking, and 
after I had concluded he remained silent for a few seconds, still 
scrutinizing me intently. Then he said, in a low and very kind 
tone: "Why, sergeant, you are not able for duty, and won t be for 
some time. Stay here till you get a little stronger." 

His statement was a bitter disappointment to me. I stood 
there in silence a little while, twisting and turning, with trembling 
hands, my old faded and battered cap. I finally managed to say, 
"I want to go to my regiment;" and here my lips began to 
tremble, and I got no further. Now don t laugh at this. It was 
simply the case of a boy, weak and broken down by illness, who was 
homesick to be with his comrades. The Major did not immediately 
respond to my last remark, but continued to look at me intently. 
Presently he picked up his pen, and said: "I am inclined to think 
that the best medical treatment for you is to let you go to your 
regiment;" and he thereupon wrote and handed me the permit, 
which was quite brief, consisting only of a fe w lines. I thanked 
him, and departed with a light heart. 

I will digress here for a moment to chronicle, with deep sor- 



156 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

row, the sad fate that ultimately befell the kind and noble surgeon, 
Maj. York. While he, with his regiment, was home on veteran fur 
lough, in March, 1864, an organized gang of Copperheads made a 
dastardly attack on some of the soldiers of the regiment at Charles 
ton, Illinois, and murdered Maj. York and five privates, and also 
severely wounded the Colonel, Greenville M. Mitchell, and three 
privates. (See Official Records, War of the Rebellion, Serial No. 
57, page 629, et seq.) 

The war ended over half a century ago, and the feelings and 
passions engendered thereby, as between the people of the Nation 
and those of the late Confederate States, have well-nigh wholly sub 
sided, which is right. But nevertheless I will set it down here that 
in my opinion the most "undesirable citizens" that ever have af 
flicted our country were the traitorous, malignant breed that in 
fested some portions of the loyal States during the war, and were 
known as "Copperheads." The rattlesnake gives warning before 
it strikes, but the copperhead snake, of equally deadly venom, gives 
none, and the two-legged copperheads invariably pursued the same 
course. They deserved the name. 

On leaving Maj. York s office I returned to the hospital and 
gathered up my stuff, which included my gun, cartridge box, knap 
sack, haversack, and canteen, and said good-by to Barton and the 
other boys I knew. Then to the commissary tent, and exhibiting 
my permit, was furnished with five days rations of hardtack, bacon, 
coffee, and sugar. Thence to the river landing, and on to the steam 
boat "Pike," which was to take the present batch of convalescents 
to Steele s army. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 157 



CHAPTER XII. 

DEVALL S BLUFF. LITTLE ROCK. AUGUST-OCTOBER, 

1863. 

On the morning of August 21st, the "Pike" cast off, and start 
ed down the Mississippi river. On reaching the mouth of White 
river, we turned up that stream, and on August 26th arrived at 
Devall s Bluff, on the west bank, where we debarked. Our trip from 
Helena was slow and uneventful. The country along White river 
from its mouth to Devall s Bluff was wild, very thinly settled, and 
practically in a state of nature. We passed only two towns on the 
stream St. Charles and Clarendon, both small places. On differ 
ent occasions I saw several bears and deer on the river bank, they 
having come there for water. Of course they ran back into the 
woods when the boat got near them. All of Steele s infantry was 
temporarily in camp at DevalFs Bluff, while his cavalry was some 
miles further out. I soon found the old regiment, and received a 
warm welcome from all of Co. D. They were much surprised to 
see me, as they had no idea that I would be able to leave the hos 
pital so soon. They had had no fighting on this campaign, so far, 
and they said that their march across the country from Helena 
had been monotonous and devoid of any special interest. 

During my first night at Devall s Bluff there came a heavy and 
protracted rain storm, and on waking up the following morning I 
found myself about half hip-deep in a puddle of water. And this 
was the beginning of more trouble. My system was full of quinine 
taken to break the fever while in the hospital, and the quinine and 
this soaking in the water did not agree. In a short time I began 
to feel acute rheumatic twinges in the small of my back, and in a 
day or two was practically helpless, and could not get up, or walk 
around, without assistance. 

The regiment left Devall s Bluff, with the balance of the army, 



158 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

on September 1st, advancing towards Little Rock. I was totally 
unable to march, but was determined to go along some way, and 
with Capt. Keeley s permission, the boys put me into one of the 
regimental w r agons. This wagon happened to be loaded with bar 
rels of pickled pork, standing on end, and my seat was on top of one 
of the barrels, and it was just the hardest, most painful day s ride 
in a wagon I ever endured. I was suffering intensely from acute 
rheumatism in the "coupling region," and in this condition trying 
to keep steady on the top of a barrel, and being occasionally vio 
lently pitched against the ends of the barrel staves when the wagon 
gave a lurch into a deep rut, which would give me well-nigh in 
tolerable pain. To make matters worse, the day was very hot, so, 
when evening came and the column halted, I was mighty near "all 
in." But some of the boys helped me out and laid me on my 
blanket in the shade, and later brought me some supper of hard 
tack, bacon, and coffee. Except the rheumatism, I was all right, 
and had a good appetite, and after a hearty supper, felt better. 
Next morning, in consequence of the active exertions of Capt. 
Keeley in the matter, an ambulance drove up where I was lying, 
and I was loaded into it, and oh, it was a luxury! Poor Enoch 
Wallace had been taken down with a malarial fever, and he was 
also a passenger, likewise two other soldiers whose names I have 
forgotten. Enoch had been promoted to second lieutenant and had 
been acting as such for some months, but his commission was not 
issued until September 3rd, a day when he was a very sick man. 
From this on, until September 10th, the day our forces captured 
Little Rock, my days were spent in the ambulance. At night, the 
sick of each division (of whom there were hundreds) would 
bivouac by the side of some lagoon, or small water course, the at 
tendants would prepare us some supper, and the surgeons would 
make their rounds, administering such medicine as the respective 
cases required. The prevailing type of sickness was malarial 
fever, for which, the sovereign specific seemed to be quinine. As 
for me, I was exempt from the taking of medicine, for which I was 
thankful. The surgeon, after inquiry into my case, would senten- 




kuc. Vv. 
2nd Lieutenant Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 159 

tiously remark, "Ah ! acute rheumatism," and pass on. I was at a 
loss to understand this seeming neglect, but a sort of explanation 
was given me later, which will be mentioned in its order. The food 
that was given the sick was meager and very unsatisfactory, but it 
was probably the best that could be furnished, under the circum 
stances. Each man was given an oyster-can full of what seemed 
to be beef -soup, with some rice or barley grains in it. By the time 
it got around to us there was usually a thin crust of cold tallow on 
the top, and the mere looks of the mess was enough to spoil one s 
appetite, if he had any. One evening, Wallace and I were sitting 
side by side with our backs against a tree, when an attendant came 
to us and gave each one his can of the decoction above mentioned. 
It was comical to see the look of disgust that came over the face of 
poor Enoch. He turned towards me, and tilting his can slightly 
to enable me to see the contents, spoke thus : "Now, ain t this nice 
stuff to give a sick man? I ve a good notion to throw the whole 
business in that fellow s face;" (referring to the attendant). "The 
trouble with you, Enoch," I said, "is that you are losing your 
patriotism, and I shouldn t be surprised if you d turn Secesh yet. 
Kicking on this rich, delicious soup ! Next thing you ll be order 
ing turtle-soup and clamoring for napkins and finger-bowls. You 
remind me of a piece of poetry I have read somewhere, something 
like this : 

Jeshurun waxed fat, 

And down his belly hung, 
Against the government he kicked, 

And high his buttocks flung ." 

The poor old fellow leaned back against the tree, and indulged in a 
long, silent laugh that really seemed to do him good. I would joke 
with him, after this fashion, a good deal, and long afterwards he 
told me that he believed he would have died on that march if I 
hadn t kept his spirits up by making ridiculous remarks. (In 
speaking of Wallace as "old," the word is used in a comparative 
sense, for the fact is he was only about thirty-four years of age 
at this time.) 



160 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

On the evening of September 9th, the sick of our division 
bivouacked by the side of a small bayou, in a dense growth of forest 
trees. Next morning the rumor spread among us that on that 
day a battle was impending, that our advance was close to the Con 
federates, and that a determined effort would be made for the 
capture of Little Rock. Sure enough, during the forenoon, the 
cannon began to boom a few miles west of us, and our infantry was 
seen rapidly moving in that direction. As I lay there helpless on 
the ground, I could not avoid worrying somewhat about the out 
come of the battle. If our forces should be defeated, we sick fel 
lows would certainly be in a bad predicament. I could see, in my 
mind s eye, our ambulance starting on a gallop for Devall s Bluff, 
while every jolt of the conveyance would inflict on me excruciating 
pain. But this suspense did not last long. The artillery practice 
soon began moving further towards the west, and was only of short 
duration anyhow. And we saw no stragglers, which was an en 
couraging sign, and some time during the afternoon we learned 
that all was going in our favor. From the standpoint of a 
common soldier, I have always thought that General Steele ef 
fected the capture of Little Rock with commendable skill and in 
a manner that displayed sound military judgment. The town was 
on the west side of the Arkansas river, and our army approached 
it from the east. Gen. Price, the Confederate commander, had 
constructed strong breastworks a short distance east of the town, 
and on the east side of the river, commanding the road on which 
we were approaching. The right of these works rested on the 
river, and the left on an impassable swamp. But Gen. Steele did 
not choose to further Price s plans by butting his infantry up 
against the Confederate works. He entertained him at that point 
by ostentatious demonstrations, and attacked elsewhere. The 
Arkansas was very low, in many places not much more than a 
wide sandbar, and was easily fordable at numerous points. So 
Steele had his cavalry and some of his infantry ford the river to the 
west side, below the town, and advance along the west bank, which 
was not fortified. Gen. Price, seeing that his position was turned 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 101 

and that his line of retreat was in danger of being cut off, with 
drew his troops from the east side and evacuated Little Rock about 
five o clock in the afternoon, retreating southwest. Our troops 
followed close on his heels, and marched in and took possession of 
the capital city of the State of Arkansas. Our loss, in the entire 
campaign, was insignificant, being only a little over a hundred, in 
killed, wounded, and missing. The 61st was with the troops that 
operated on the east side of the river, and sustained no loss what 
ever. A few cannon balls, poorly aimed and flying high, passed 
over the regiment, but did no mischief, beyond shaking the nerves 
of some recruits who never before had been under fire. 

About sundown on the evening of the 10th, the ambulance 
drivers hitched up, and the sick were taken to a division hospital 
located near the east bank of the river. Capt. Keeley came over 
the next day to see Wallace and myself, and, at my urgent request, 
he arranged for me to be sent to the regiment. As heretofore 
stated, I just loathed the idea of being in a hospital. There were 
so many disagreeable and depressing things occurring there every 
day, and which could not be helped, that they inspired in me a sort 
of desperate determination to get right out of such a place, and 
stay out, if possible. Early next morning an ambulance drove up, 
I was put in it, and taken to the camp of the old regiment. Some 
of the boys carried me into a tent, and laid me down on a cot, and I 
was once more in the society of men who were not groaning with 
sickness, but were cheerful and happy. But it was my fate to lie 
on that cot for more than a month, and unable even to turn over 
without help. And I shall never forget the kindness of Frank 
Gates during that time. He would come every day, when not on 
duty, and bathe and rub my rheumatic part with a rag soaked in 
vinegar, almost scalding hot, which seemed to give me temporary 
relief. There was an old doctor, of the name of Thomas D. Wash- 
burn, an assistant surgeon of the 126th Illinois Infantry, who, for 
some reason, had been detailed to serve temporarily with our regi 
ment, and he would sometimes drop in to see me. He was a tall 
old man, something over six feet high, and gaunt in proportion. I 



162 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER, 

don t remember that he ever gave me any medicine, or treatment of 
any kind, for the reason, doubtless, that will now be stated. One 
day I said to him, Doctor, is there nothing that can be done for 
me? Must I just lie here and suffer indefinitely?" He looked 
down at me sort of sympathetically, and slowly said : "I will answer 
your question by telling you a little story. Once upon a time a 
young doctor asked an old one substantially the same question you 
have just asked me, which the old doctor answered by saying: 
Yes, there is just one remedy: six weeks ." And, patting me 
lightly on the shoulder, he further remarked, "That s all;" and 
left. The sequel in my case confirmed Dr. Washburn s story. 

The spot where the regiment went into camp on the day of the 
capture of Little Rock was opposite the town, on the east bank of 
the Arkansas, not far from the river, and in a scattered grove of 
trees. The locality was supposed to be a sort of suburb of the 
town, and was designated at the time in army orders as "Hunters- 
ville." But the only house that I now remember of being near our 
camp was a little, old, ramshackle building that served as a rail 
road depot. Speaking of the railroad, it extended only from here 
to Devall s Bluff, a distance of about fifty miles, and was the only 
railroad at that time in the State of Arkansas. The original pro 
ject of the road contemplated a line from Little Rock to a point on 
the Mississippi opposite Memphis. Work was begun on the west 
ern terminus, and the road was completed and in operation as far 
as Devall s Bluff before the war, and then the war came along and 
the work stopped. Since then the road has been completed as 
originally planned. This little old sawed-off railroad was quite a 
convenience to our army at the Rock, as it obviated what otherwise 
would have been the necessity of hauling our supplies in wagons 
across the country from Devall s Bluff. It also frequently came 
handy for transporting the troops, and several times saved our 
regiment, and, of course, others, from a hot and tiresome march. 

For some weeks while in camp at Huntersville, we lived high 
on several articles of food not included in the army rations. There 
were a good many sheep in the country round about that the mili- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 163 

tary authorities confiscated, and so we had many a feast on fine, 
fresh mutton. Corn was plentiful also, and corn meal was issued to 
us liberally. Last, but not least, the rich Arkansas river bottom 
lands abounded in great big yellow sweet potatoes that the country 
people called "yams/ and we just-reveled in them to our entire 
satisfaction. 

There was a boy in my company named William Banfield, 
about the same age as myself. We had been near neighbors at 
home, and intimate friends. Bill was a splendid soldier, seldom 
sick, and always performed his soldier duties cheerfully and with 
out grumbling. And Bill was blessed with a good digestion, and 
apparently was always hungry. The place where he would build 
his cook-fire in this camp was near the front of my tent, where I 
had a good view of his operations. I was lying helpless on my 
cot, and, like others so situated from time immemorial, had noth 
ing to do, and scarcely did anything else but watch the neighbors. 
Among the cherished possessions of our company was an old- 
fashioned cast-iron Dutch oven, of generous proportions, which 
was just the dandy for baking mutton. Well, Bill would, in the 
first place, get his chunk of mutton, a fine big piece of the saddle, or 
of a ham, and put it on to cook in the oven. Then we had another 

en, a smaller affair of the skillet order, in which Bill would set 
to cooking a corn meal cake. At the right stage of the proceedings 

J would slice up some yams, and put them in with the mutton. 
Next, and last, , he would make at least a quart of strong, black 
coffee. Both from long experience and critical observation, Bill 
knew to the fraction of a minute how long it would take for all his 
converging columns of table comforts to reach the done point on 
time and all together, and the resulting harmony was perfection 
itself, and (to use an overworked phrase) "left nothing to be de 
sired." Dinner now being ready, the first thing Bill did was to 
bring me an ample allowance of the entire bill of fare, and which, 
by the way, I had to dispose of as best I could lying down, as it? 
was impossible for me to sit up. Having seen to the needs of a 
disabled comrade, Bill next proceeded to clear his own decks for 



164 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

action. He seated himself at the foot of a big tree, on the shady 
side, with his back against the trunk ; then spreading his legs apart 
in the shape of a pair of carpenter s compasses, he placed between 
them the oven containing the mutton and yams, at his left hand 
the skillet with the cornbread, and on his right his can of coffee 
and then the services began. And how Bill would enjoy his dinner ! 
There was no indecent haste about it, no bolting of the delicacies, 
or anything of the sort. He proceeded slowly and with dignity, 
while occasionally he would survey the landscape with a placid, 
contented air. But everything was devoured, the last crumb of 
cornbread did duty in sopping up the final drop of grease. The 
banquet over, Bill would sit there a while in silence, gazing, per 
chance, at the shimmering waters of the Arkansas, and its sand 
bars, glittering in the sun. But ere long his head would begin to 
droop, he would throw one leg over the Dutch oven, swinging the 
limb clear of that utensil, settle himself snugly against the tree, and 
in about five minutes would be asleep. 

At the time I am now writing, (October, 1916,) Bill is yet 
alive, and residing at Grafton, Illinois. He is a good old fellow, 
and "long may he wave." 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 165 



CHAPTER XIII. 



LITTLE ROCK, OCTOBER, 1863. GRANTED A FURLOUGH. 
CHAPLAIN B. B. HAMILTON .THE JOURNEY ON FUR 
LOUGH FROM LITTLE ROCK TO JERSEY COUNTY, 
ILLINOIS. RETURN TO REGIMENT, 

NOVEMBER, 1863. 

About the middle of October the regiment shifted its camp 
ground from Huntersville to an open space on the west side of the 
river, near the State penitentiary, where we remained all the en 
suing winter. Soon after this change of camp it was reported 
among us that one man from each company would soon be granted 
a thirty day furlough. Prior to this, while in Tennessee, there had 
been a very few furloughs granted in exceptional cases, which 
were all the indulgencies of that kind the regiment had so far re 
ceived. I made no request to be the favored man of our company 
in this matter, but one day Capt. Keeley told me that he had decided 
that I should be the furloughed man from Co. D, and could make 
my arrangements accordingly. By this time I had so far recovered 
from my rheumatism that I could walk around with the aid of a 
cane, but was very "shaky" on foot, and any sudden shock or jar 
would make me flinch with pain. I wondered how I should be able 
to get from the camp to the railroad depot on the other side of the 
river, with my knapsack, haversack and canteen, and their neces 
sary contents, for I was utterly unable to carry them. I happened 
to mention this problem to the chaplain of the regiment, B. B. Ham 
ilton. He was an old and valued friend of my parents, and, as he 
had lived only a few miles from our home, I knew him quite well 
before the war, and had heard him preach many a time. He was 
of the Baptist denomination, and my parents were of the same re 
ligious faith. At this time he was still what I would now call a 
young man, being only about forty years old. My father s given 



166 THE STORYOFA1COMMON SOLDIER. 

name was Jeremiah, and the Chaplain almost invariably, when 
speaking to me, would, in a grave, deliberate manner, address me 
as "Son of Jeremiah." When I mentioned xo him my perplexity 
above indicated, he responded; "Son of Jeremiah, let not your 
heart be troubled. The Lord will provide." Knowing that what 
he said could be depended upon, I asked no questions. The precious 
document giving me thirty-days leave of absence was delivered 
to me in due time, and our little squad arranged to start on the 
next train, and which would leave Little Rock for Devall s Bluff 
early the following day. I had my breakfast betimes the next 
morning, and was sitting on the ground in front of my tent, with 
my traps by me, when Chaplain Hamilton came riding up on his 
horse. He dismounted, and saying to me, "Son of Jeremiah, the 
Lord has provided," thereupon, helped me on his horse, and we 
started for the depot, the Chaplain walking by my side. We crossed 
the Arkansas on a sort of improvised army bridge, and were ap 
proaching the depot, when a locomotive on the track near-by began 
to let off steam. The horse evidently was not accustomed to that, 
he gave a frantic snort, and began to prance and rear. For a sec 
ond or so I was in an agony of apprehension. I was incumbered 
with my knapsack and other things, was weak and feeble, and no 
horseman anyhow, and knew that if I should be violently thrown 
to the ground, it would just about break me all to pieces, and my 
furlough would end then and there. But it is likely that the Chap 
lain may have apprehended the horse s conduct; at any rate, he 
was on the alert. With one bound he was in front of the frightened 
animal, holding him firmly by the bridle bits, and had him under 
control at once. And about the same time the engine stopped its 
noise, and the trouble was over. The cars destined for Devall s 
Bluff were on the track, and the Chaplain, and some of our fur 
lough party who had already arrived, helped me on the train. Of 
course there were no passenger coaches, just box and gravel cars, 
and I seated myself on the floor of one of the latter. I gratefully 
thanked the Chaplain for his kindness, he said a few pleasant 
words, gave me a kind message for the folks at home, wished me 
a safe and pleasant trip, and then rode away. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 167 

This is probably a fitting place to pay a brief tribute to the 
memory of Chaplain Hamilton, so I will proceed to do so. The first 
chaplain of the regiment was a minister named Edward Rutledge. 
He was appointed May 16, 1862, and resigned September 3rd, of 
the same year. I do not remember of his ever officiating often in 
the capacity of chaplain. I recall just one occasion when he 
preached to us, and that was under somewhat peculiar circum 
stances. He came to the regiment when we were in camp at Owl 
Creek, Tennessee, and, soon after his arrival, there was read one 
Saturday evening at dress parade an order in substance and effect 
as follows: That at a designated time on the following morning 
the men would assemble on their respective company parade 
grounds, wearing their "side-arms," (which included waist- and 
shoulder-belts, cartridge-box, cap-pouch and bayonet,) and under 
the command of a commissioned officer each company would march 
to the grove where the chaplain would hold religious services. Well, 
I didn t like that order one bit, and the great majority of the boys 
felt the same way. The idea of having to attend church under com 
pulsion seemed to me to infringe on our constitutional rights as 
free-born American citizens, that while it might have been a thing 
to be endured in the days described in Fox s "Book of Martyrs," 
nevertheless, it wasn t exactly fair right now. But orders must be 
obeyed, so we all turned out with the prescribed "side-arms," and, 
like the young oysters that were inveigled by the Walrus and the 
Carpenter, 

"Our clothes were brushed, our faces washed, 
Our shoes were clean and neat." 

But it is much to be feared that the chaplain s discourse didn t do 
anybody a bit of good. For my part, I don t now remember a word, 
not even the text. The order aforesaid gave so much dissatisfac 
tion to the rank and file, and perhaps to some of the line officers 
also, that it was never repeated, and thereafter attendance on the 
chaplain s preaching was a matter left to each man s pleasure and 
discretion. Judging only from what came under my personal 
notice, I don t think that much good was ever accomplished by 



168 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

chaplains in the Western army, as regards matters of a purely theo 
logical nature. As some one has said somewhere : "Army service 
in time of war is d d hard on religion." But in practical, every 
day matters, chaplains had ample opportunities for doing, and did, 
a great deal of good. They held the rank and wore the uniform 
of a captain, and, while they had no military command over the 
men, they were, nevertheless, so far as I ever saw, always treated 
by the soldiers with the most kind and respectful consideration. 
To fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Rutledge, B. B. 
Hamilton was commissioned chaplain on October 30, 1862, and came 
to us about that date. He had been active in the ministry at home 
for many years, and during that time had preached in Jersey, 
Greene, and the adjoining counties, so he was personally known 
to many of the officers and men. He was a man of good, sound 
common sense, an excellent judge of human nature, and endowed 
with a dry, quaint sort of humor that was delightful. When talk 
ing with intimate friends, he was, prone, at times, to drop into an 
Oriental style of conversation, well garnished with sayings and il 
lustrations from the Bible. I don t remember now of his preach 
ing to us very often, arid when he did he was tactful in selecting a 
time when the conditions were all favorable. In his discourses he 
ignored all questions of theology, such as faith, frsa-will, foreordi- 
nation, the final perseverance of the saints, and such like, and got 
right down to matters involved in our every-day life. He would 
admonish us to be careful about our health, to avoid excesses of 
any kind that might be injurious to us in that respect, and above all 
things, to be faithful and brave soldiers, and conduct ourselves in 
such a manner that our army record would be an honor to us, and 
a source of pride and satisfaction to our parents and friends at 
home. In camp or on the march, he was a most useful and indus 
trious man. He would visit the sick, write letters for them, and 
in general look after their needs in countless ways. He wrote a 
fine, neat, legible hand, and rendered much assistance to many of 
the line officers in making out the muster and pay rolls of their 
respective companies, and in attending to other matters connected 





Chaplain 61st Illinois Infantry. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 160 

with the company records, or official correspondence. And when 
the regiment had fighting to do, or a prospect of any, Chaplain 
Hamilton was always at the front. In the affair at Salem Ceme 
tery, Hez. Giberson of Co. G was knocked down and rendered in 
sensible for a short time by the near-by explosion of a shell. Ham 
ilton ran to him, picked him up, and taking him by the arm, 
marched him to the rear, while shells were bursting all around us. 
I saw them as they walked by, Giberson white as a sheet, stagger 
ing, and evidently deathly sick, but the chaplain clung to him, kept 
him on his feet, and ultimately turned him over to the surgeon. 

The spring of 1865 found the regiment at Franklin, Tennessee. 
The war was then practically over in that region, and any organ 
ized armies of the Confederates were hundreds of miles away. Ham 
ilton s health had become greatly impaired, and in view of all those 
conditions, he concluded to resign, and did so, on March 3rd, 1865, 
and thereupon returned to his old home in Illinois. The vacancy 
caused by his resignation was never filled, and thereafter we had 
no religious services in the regiment except on two or three occa 
sions, rendered by volunteers, whose names I have forgotten. After 
leaving the army, Chaplain Hamilton led a life of activity and use 
fulness until incapacitated by his final illness. He died at Upper 
Alton, Illinois, on November llth, 1894, at the age of nearly seven 
ty-three years, respected and loved by all who knew him. He was 
a good, patriotic, brave man. I never saw him but once after he 
left the army, but we kept up a fraternal correspondence with each 
other as long as he lived. 

I will now return to the little squad of furloughed Sixty-one- 
sters that was left a while ago on the freight cars at Little Rock. 
The train pulled out early in the day for Devall s Bluff, where we 
arrived about noon. We at once made our way to the boat-landing, 
and I simply am unable to describe our disappointment when we 
found no steamboats there. After making careful inquiry, we ware 
unable to get any reliable information in regard to the time of the 
arrival of any from below, it might be the next hour, or maybe 
not for several days. There was nothing to do but just biv- 



170 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

ouac there by the river bank, and wait. And there we waited for 
two long days of our precious thirty, and were getting fairly des 
perate, when one afternoon the scream of a whistle was heard, and 
soon the leading boat of a small fleet poked its nose around the bend 
about half a mile below, and we sprang to our feet, waved our 
caps and yelled ! We ascertained that the boats would start on the 
return trip to the mouth of White river as soon as they unloaded 
their army freight. This was accomplished by the next morning, 
we boarded the first one ready to start, a small stern-wheeler, and 
some time on the second day thereafter arrived at the mouth of 
White river. There we landed, on the right bank of the Mississippi, 
and later boarded a big side-wheeler destined for Cairo, which 
stopped to take us on. When it rounded in for that purpose, the 
members of our little squad were quite nervous, and there was a 
rush on the principle of every fellow for himself. I was hobbling 
along with my traps, as best I could, when in going down the river 
bank, which was high and steep, in some way I stumbled and fell, 
and rolled clear to the bottom, and just lay there helpless. There 
was one of our party of the name of John Powell, of Co. G, a young 
fellow about twenty -two or -three years old. He was not tall, only 
about five feet and eight or nine inches, but was remarkably broad 
across the shoulders and chest, and had the reputation of being the 
strongest man in the regiment. He happened to see the accident 
that had befallen me, and ran to me, picked me up in his arms, with 
my stuff, the same as if I had been a baby, and "toted" me on the 
boat. He hunted up a cozy corner on the leeward side, set me down 
carefully, and then said, "Now, you d d little cuss, I guess you 
won t fall down here." And all the balance of the trip, until our 
respective routes diverged, he looked after me the same as if I had 
been his brother. He was a splendid, big-hearted fellow. While 
ascending the Mississippi, the weather was cloudy and foggy, the 
boat tied up at nights, and our progress generally was tantalizingly 
slow. We arrived at Cairo on the afternoon of October 26th. It 
was a raw, chilly, autumn day, a drizzling rain was falling, and 
everything looked uncomfortable and wretched. We went to the 



THE STORYJ3F A COMMON SOLDIER. 171 

depot of the Illinois Central railroad, and on inquiry learned that 
our train would not leave until about nine o clock that night, so ap 
parently there was nothing to do but sit down and wait. My 
thoughts were soon dwelling on the first time I saw Cairo, that 
bright sunny afternoon in the latter part of March, 1862. I was 
then in superb health and buoyant spirits, and inspired by radiant 
hopes and glowing anticipations. Only a little over a year and a 
half had elapsed, and I was now at the old town again, but this 
time in broken health, and hobbling about on a stick. But it soon 
occurred to me that many of my comrades had met a still more un 
fortunate fate, and by -this comparison method I presently got in 
a more cheerful frame of mind. And something happened to come 
to pass that materially aided that consummation. Some of our 
party who had been scouting around the town returned with the 
intelligence that they had found a place called "The Soldiers 
Home," where all transient soldiers were furnished food and shel 
ter "without money and without price." This was most welcome 
news, for our rations were practically exhausted, and our money 
supply was so meager that economy was a necessity. It was near- 
ing supper time, so we started at once for the Home, in hopes of 
getting a square meal. On reaching the place we found already 
formed a long "queue" of hungry sold : ers, in two ranks, extending 
from the door away out into the street. We took our stand at the 
end of the line, and waited patiently. The building was a long, low, 
frame structure, of a barrack-like style, and of very unpretentious 
appearance, but, as we found out soon, the inside was better. In 
due time, the door was opened, and we all filed in. The room was 
well-lighted, and warm, and long rows of rough tables extended 
clear across, with benches for seats. And oh, what a splendid supper 
we had! Strong, hot coffee, soft bread, cold boiled beef, molasses, 
stewed dried apples, and even cucumber pickles ! Supper over, 
we went back to the depot, all feeling better, and I ve had a warm 
spot in my heart for the old town of Cairo ever since. But it cer 
tainly did look hard at this time. Its population, at the beginning 
of the war, was only a little over two thousand, the houses were 



172 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

small and dilapidated, and everything was dirty, muddy, slushy, and 
disagreeable in general. In October, 1914, I happened to be in 
Cairo again, and spent several hours there, roaming around, and 
looking at the town. The lapse of half a century had wrought a 
wonderful change. Its population was now something over fifteen 
thousand, the streets were well paved and brilliantly lighted, and 
long blocks of tall, substantial buildings had superseded the un 
sightly shacks of the days of the Civil War. But on this occasion 
I found no vestige of our "Soldiers Home," nor was any person of 
whom inquiry was made able to give me the slightest information 
as to where it had stood. The only thing I saw in the town, or that 
vicinity, that looked natural, was the Ohio river, and even its placid 
appearance was greatly marred by a stupendous railroad bridge, 
over which trains of cars were thundering every hour in the day. 
But tha river itself was flowing on in serene majesty, as it had been 
from tne time "the morning stars sang together," and as it will 
continue to flow until this planet goes out of business. 

We left Cairo on the cars on the night of October 26th, and for 
the first time in our military service, we rode in passenger coaches, 
which was another piece of evidence that once more we were in that 
part of the world that we uniformly spoke of as "God s Country." 
I remember an incident that occurred during our ride that night 
that gave us all the benefit of a hearty laugh. There was (and is 
yet) a station on the Illinois Central, in Jackson county, Illinois, 
by the name of "Makanda." It was some time after midnight when 
we neared this station, the boys were sprawled out on their seats, 
and trying to doze. The engine gave the usual loud whistle to an 
nounce a stop, the front door of our coach was thrown open, and a 
brakeman with a strong Hibernian accent called out in thunder 
tones what sounded exactly like "My-candy !" as here written, and 
with the accent on the first syllable. There were several soldiers in 
the coach who were not of our party, also going home on furlough, 
and one of these, a big fellow with a heavy black beard, reared up 
and yelled back at the brakeman, "Well, who the hell said it wasn t 
your candy?" and the boys all roared. Many years later I passed 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 173 

through that town on the cars, and the brakeman said "My-candy," 
as of yore. I felt a devilish impulse to make the same response 
the soldier did on that October night in 1863, but the war was over, 
no comrades were on hand to back me, so 1 prudently refrained. 
At Sandoval the most of our party transferred to the Ohio and 
Mississippi railroad, (as it was called then,) and went to St. Louis, 
reaching there on the afternoon of October 27th. Here all except 
myself left on the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis railroad, for differ 
ent points thereon, and from which they would make their way to 
their respective homes. There was no railroad running through 
Jersey county at this time, (except a bit of the last named road 
about a mile in length across the southeast corner of the county,) 
and the railroad station nearest my home was twenty miles away, 
so I had to resort to some other mode of travel. I went down to the 
wharf and boarded a little Illinois river steamboat, the Post-Boy, 
which would start north that night, paid my fare to Grafton, at 
the mouth of the Illinois river, arranged with the clerk to wake me 
at that place, and then turned in. But the clerk did not have to 
bother on my account; I was restless, slept but little, kept a close 
lookout, and when the whistle blew for Grafton, I was up and on 
deck in about a minute. The boat rounded in at the landing, and 
threw out a plank for my benefit, the lone passenger for Grafton. 
Two big, burly deck-hands, rough looking, bearded men, took me 
by the arm, one on each side, and carefully and kindly helped me 
ashore. I have often thought of that little incident. In those days 
a river deck-hand was not a saint, by any means. As a rule, he 
was a coarse, turbulent, and very profane man, but these two fel 
lows saw that I was a little, broken-down boy-soldier, painfully 
hobbling along on a stick, and they took hold of me with their 
strong, brawny hands, and helped me off the boat with as much 
kindness and gentleness as if I had been the finest lady in the land. 
I was now only five miles from home, and proposed to make the 
balance of my journey on foot. I climbed up to the top of the river 
bank, and thence made my way to the main and only street the 
little town then possessed, and took "the middle of the road." It 



174 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

was perhaps four or five o clock in the morning, a quiet, starlight 
night, and the people of the village were all apparently yet wrapped 
in slumber. No signs of life were visible, except occasionally a 
dog would run out in a front yard and bark at me. The main road 
from Grafton, at that time, and which passed near rny home, wound 
along the river bottom a short distance, and then, for a mile or 
more, ascended some high hills or bluffs north of the town. The 
ascent of these bluffs was steep, and hence the walking was 
fatiguing, and several times before reaching the summit where the 
road stretched away over a long, high ridge, I had to sit down and 
rest. The quails were now calling all around me, and the chickens 
were crowing for day at the farm houses, and their notes sounded 
so much like home! After attaining the crest, the walking was 
easier, and I slowly plodded on, rejoicing in the sight of the many 
familiar objects that appeared on every hand. About a mile or so 
from home, I left the main highway, and followed a country road 
that led to our hou^e, where I at last arrived about nine o clock. I 
had not written to my parents to advise them of my coming, for it 
would not have been judicious, in mere expectation of a furlough, 
to excite hopes that might be disappointed, and after it was issued 
and delivered to me, there was no use in writing, for I would reach 
home as soon as a letter. So my father and mother, and the rest 
of the family, were all taken completely by surprise when I quietly 
walked into the yard of the old home. I pass over any detailed ac 
count of our meeting. We, like others of that time and locality, 
were a simple, backwoods, people, with nothing in the nature of 
gush or effervescence in our dispositions. I know that I was glad 
to see my parents, and the rest, and they were all unmistakably glad 
to see me, and we manifested our feelings in a natural, homely way, 
and without any display whatever of extravagant emotions. Greet 
ings being over, about the first inquiry was whether I had yet had 
any breakfast, and my answer being in the negative, a splendid 
old-time breakfast was promptly prepared. But rny mother was 
keenly disappointed at my utter lack of appetite. I just couldn t 
eat hardly a bit, and invented some sort of an excuse, and said I d 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 175 

do better in the future, but, somehow, right then, I wasn t hungry, 
which was true. However, this instance of involuntary absti 
nence was fully made up for later. 

While on my furlough I went with my father in the farm 
wagon occasionally to Grafton, and Jerseyville, and even once to 
Alton, twenty miles away, but the greater part of the time was 
spent at the farm, and around the old home, and in the society of 
the family. I reckon I rambled over every acre of the farm, and 
besides, took long walks in the woods of the adjacent country, for 
miles around. The big, gushing Sansom Spring, about half a mile 
from home, was a spot associated with many happy recollections. 
I would go there, lie flat on the ground, and take a copious drink of 
the pure, delicious water, then stroll through the woods down San 
som branch to its confluence with Otter creek, thence down the 
creek to the Twin Springs that burst out at the base of a ridge 1 
on our farm, just a few feet below a big sugar maple, from here on 
to the ruins of the old grist mill my father operated in the latter 
40s, and then still farther down the creek to the ancient grist mill 
(then still standing) of the old pioneer, Hiram White. Here I 
would cross to the south bank of the creek and make my way home 
up through Limestone, or the Sugar Hollow. From my earliest 
youth I always loved to ramble in the woods, and somehow these 
around the old home now looked dearer and more beautiful to me 
than they ever had before. 

The last time I ever saw my boyhood home was in August, 
1894. It had passed into the hands of strangers, and didn t look 
natural. And all the old-time natural conditions in that locality 
were greatly changed. The flow of water from Sansom Spring 
was much smaller than what it had been in the old days, and only 
a few rods below the spring it sunk into the ground and disap 
peared. The big, shady pools along Sansom branch where I had 
gone swimming when a boy, and from which I had caught many a 
string of perch and silversides, were now dry, rocky holes in the 
ground, and the branch in general was dry as a bone. And Ot 
ter Creek, which at different places where it ran through our farm 



170 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

had once contained long reaches of water six feet deep and over, 
had now shrunk to a sickly rivulet that one could step across almost 
anywhere in that vicinity. And the grand primeval forest which 
up to about the close of the war, at least, had practically covered 
the country for many miles in the vicinity of my old home, had now 
all been cut down and destroyed, and the naked surface of the 
earth was baking in the rays of the sun. It is my opinion, and is 
stated for whatever it may be worth, that the wholesale destruction 
of the forests of that region had much to do with the drying up of 
the streams. 

But it is time to return to the boy on furlough. 

Shortly before leaving Little Rock for home, Capt. Keeley had 
confidentially informed me that if the military situation in Ar 
kansas continued quiet, it would be all right for me before my fur 
lough expired to procure what would effect a short extension there 
of, and he explained to me the modus operandi. Including the un 
avoidable delays, over a third of my thirty days had been consumed 
in making the trip home, and the return journey would doubtless 
require about the same time. I therefore thought it would be justi 
fiable to obtain an extension, if possible. My health was rapidly 
growing better, the rheumatism was nearly gone but there was 
still room for improvement. I had closely read the newspapers 
in order to keep posted on the military status in the! vicinity of 
Little Rock, and had learned from them that the troops were build 
ing winter quarters, and that in general, "All was quiet along the 
Arkansas." So, on November 9th, I went to Dr. J. H. Hesser, a 
respectable physician of Otterville, told him my business, and said 
that if his judgment would warrant it, I would be glad to obtain 
from him a certificate that would operate to extend my furlough 
for twenty days. He looked at me, asked a few questions, and then 
wrote and gave me a brief paper which set forth in substance that, 
in his opinion as a physician, I would not be able for duty sooner 
than December 5th, 1863, that being a date twenty days subsequent 
to the expiration of my furlough. I paid Dr. Hesser nothing for the 
certificate, for he did not ask it, but said that he gave it to me as 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 177 

a warranted act of kindness to a deserving soldier. (In September 
of the following year Dr. Hesser enlisted in Co. C of our regiment 
as a recruit, and about all the time he was with us acted as hos 
pital steward of the regiment, which position he filled ably and 
satisfactorily.) But I did not avail myself of all my aforesaid ex 
tension. I knew it would be better to report at company head 
quarters before its expiration than after, so my arrangements 
were made to start back on November 16th. Some hours before 
sunrise that morning, I bade good-by to mother and the children, 
and father and I pulled out in the farm wagon for our nearest 
railroad station, which was Alton, and, as heretofore stated, twenty 
miles away, where we arrived in ample time for my train. We 
drove into a back street and unhitched the team the faithful old 
mules, Bill and Tom, tied them to the wagon and fed them, and then 
walked to the depot. The train came in due season, and stopped 
opposite the depot platform, where father and I were stand 
ing. We faced each other, and I said, "Good-bye, father;" he 
responded, "Good-bye, Leander, take care of yourself." We 
shook hands, then he instantly turned and walked away, and I 
boarded the train. That was all there was to it. And yet we both 
knew more in regard to the dangers and perils that environ the 
life of a soldier in time of war than we did on the occasion of the 
parting at Jerseyville nearly two years ago hence we fully realized 
that this farewell might be the last. Nor did this manner spring 
from indifference, or lack of sensibility; it was simply the way of 
the plain unlettered backwoods people of those days. Nearly thir 
ty-five years later the "whirligig of time" evolved an incident which 
clearly brought home to me a vivid idea of what must have been 
my father s feelings on this occasion. The Spanish-American war 
began in the latter part of April, 1898, and on the 30th of that 
month, Hubert, my oldest son, then a lad not quite nineteen years 
old, enlisted in Co. A of the 22nd Kansas Infantry, a regiment 
raised for service in that war. On May 28th the regiment was 
sent to Washington, D. C., and was stationed at Camp Alger, near 
the city. In the early part of August it appeared that there was 



178 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

a strong probability that the regiment, with others at Washing 
ton, would soon be sent to Cuba or Porto Rico. I knew that meant 
lighting, to say nothing of the camp diseases liable to prevail in 
that latitude at that season of the year. So my wife and I con 
cluded to go to Washington and have a little visit with Hubert be 
fore he left for the seat of war. We arrived at the capital on Aug 
ust 5th, and found the regiment then in camp near the little village 
of Clifton, Virginia, about twenty-six miles southwest of Wash 
ington. We had a brief but very enjoyable visit with Hubert, who 
was given a pass, and stayed a few days with us in the city. But 
the time soon came for us to separate, and on the day of our de 
parture for home Hubert went with us to the depot of the Baltimore 
and Ohio railroad, where his mother and I bade him good-by. Then 
there came to me, so forcibly, the recollection of the parting with 
my father at the Alton depot in November, 1863, and for the first 
time I think I fully appreciated what must have been his feelings 
on that occasion. 

But, (referring to the Washington incident,) it so happened 
that on the day my wife and I left that city for home, or quite 
soon thereafter, it was officially announced that a suspension of 
hostilities had been agreed on between Spain and the United States. 
This ended the war, and consequently Hubert s regiment was not 
sent to the Spanish islands. I will now resume my own story. 

My route from Alton, and method of conveyance, on returning 
to the regiment, were the same, with one or two slight variations, 
as those in going home, and the return trip was uneventful. But 
there were no delays, the boat ran day and night, and the journey 
was made in remarkably quick time. I arrived at Little Rock on the 
evening of November 20th, only five days over my furlough, and 
with a twenty-day extension to show for that, reported promptly to 
Capt. Keeley, and delivered to him the certificate given me by Dr. 
Hesser. Keeley pronounced the paper satisfactory, and further 
said it would have been all right if I had taken the benefit of the 
entire twenty days. However, it somehow seemed to me that he 
really was pleased to see that I had not done so, but hurried back fif- 




LEANDER STILLWELL 
Co. D, 61st Illinois Infantry, December, 1863. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 179 

teen days ahead of time. After a brief conversation with him 
about the folks at home, and matters and things there in general, 
he treated me to a most agreeable surprise. He stepped to the com 
pany office desk, and took therefrom a folded paper which he hand 
ed to me with the remark : There, Stillwell, is something I think 
will please you." I unfolded and glanced at it, and saw that it 
was a non-commissioned officer s warrant, signed by Major Grass 
as commanding officer of the regiment, and countersigned by 
Lieut. A. C. Haskins as adjutant, appointing me First Sergeant of 
Co. D. The warrant was dated November 4th, but recited that the 
appointment took effect from September 1st, preceding. As be 
fore stated, Enoch Wallace was our original first sergeant, and as 
he was promoted to second lieutenant on September 3, 1863, his ad 
vancement left his old position vacant, and his mantle had now 
fallen on me. I was deeply gratified with this appointment, and 
really was not expecting it, as there were two other duty sergeants 
who outranked me, and in appointing me 1 was promoted over their 
heads. However, they took it in good part, and remained my 
friends, as they alway^ had been. And the plain truth is, too, 
which may have reconciled these sergeants somewhat, the position 
of first or orderly sergeant, as we usually called it, was not an 
enviable one, by any means. His duties were incessant, involving 
responsibility, and frequently were very trying. He had to be 
right with his company every hour in the day, and it was not pru 
dent for him to absent himself from camp for even ten minutes 
without the consent of his company commander, and temporarily 
appointing a duty sergeant to act in his place while away. Among 
his multifarious duties may be mentioned the following: Calling 
the roll of the company morning and evening, and at such other 
hours as might be required ; attending sick calls with the sick , and 
carefully making a note of those excused from duty by the sur 
geon; making out and signing the company morning report; pro 
curing the signature of the company commander thereto, and then 
delivering it to the adjutant; forming the company on its parade 
ground for dress parade, drills, marches, and the like ; making the 



180 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

details of the men required from his company for the various kinds 
of guard and fatigue duty ; drawing rations for the company, and 
distributing them among the various messes; seeing to it that the 
company grounds (when in camp) were properly policed every 
morning; and just scores of little matters of detail that were oc 
curring all the time. It was a very embarrassing incident when 
sometimes a boy who was a good soldier was, without permission, 
absent at roll call. He might have strolled up town, or to a neigh 
boring camp to see an old-time friend, and stayed too long. On 
such occurrences I would, as a general rule, pass rapidly from his 
name to the next and just report the boy present, and later talk to 
him privately and tell him not to let it happen again. It is true, 
sometimes an aggravated case occurred when, in order to maintain 
discipline, a different course had to be pursued, but not often. 
Speaking generally, I will say that it was bad policy for the orderly 
to be running to the captain about every little trouble or grievance. 
The thing for him to do was to take the responsibility and act on 
his own judgment, and depend on the captain to back him {as he 
almost invariably would) if the affair came to a "show-down." 
Beginning as far back as the summer of 1862, I had frequently 
temporarily acted as orderly sergeant, for weeks at a time, and so 
possessed a fair amount of experience when I entered on the duties 
of the position under a permanent appointment. But my long, soli 
tary rambles out in the woods, beyond the lines, were at an end, 
and that was a matter of more regret to me than anything else 
connected with the office of orderly sergeant. While on this topic 
I will remark that it always seemed to me that the men who had 
the "softest snaps" of any in a regiment of infantry were the lieu 
tenants of the respective companies. The first lieutenant had no 
company cares or responsibilities whatever, unless the captain was 
absent, or sick in quarters, and the second lieutenant was likewise 
exempt, unless the captain and first lieutenant were both absent, 
or sick. Of course there were duties that devolved on the lieuten 
ants from time to time, such as drilling the men, serving as officer 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 181 

of the guard, and other matters, but when those jobs were done, 
they could just "go and play," without a particle of care or anxiety 
about the services of the morrow. 



182 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



LITTLE ROCK. WINTER OF 1863-4. RE-ENLIST FOR 
THREE YEARS MORE. 

When I returned to Little Rock from my absence on furlough, 
the regiment was found installed in cosy, comfortable quarters of 
pine log cabins. There were extensive pine forests near Little 
Rock, the boys were furnished teams and axes to facilitate the 
work, and cut and shaped the logs for the cabin walls, and roofed 
them with lumber, boards or shingles, which they procured in va 
rious ways. The walls were chinked and daubed with mud, and 
each cabin was provided with an ample, old-fashioned fire-place, 
with a rock or stick chimney. As wood was close at hand, and in 
abundance, there was no difficulty whatever in keeping the cabins 
warm. But I will remark here that of all the mean wood to burn, 
a green pine log is about the worst. It is fully as bad aa green 
elm, or sycamore. But there was no lack of dry wood to mix with 
the green, and the green logs had this virtue: that after the fire 
had once taken hold of them they would last a whole night. The 
winter of 1863-4 was remarkably cold, and to this day is remem 
bered by the old soldiers as "the cold winter." On the last day of 
1863 a heavy fall of snow occurred at Little Rock, and the first day 
of the new year, and several days thereafter, were bitterly cold. 
But the weather did not cause the troops in our immediate locality 
any special suffering, so far as I know, or ever heard. All of us 
not on picket were just as comfortable as heart could wish in our 
tight, well-warmed cabins, and those on guard duty were permitted 
to build rousing fires and so got along fairly well. Big fires on the 
picket line would not have been allowed if any enemy had been in 
our vicinity, but there were none ; hence it was only common sense 
to Jet the pickets have fires and keep as comfortable as circum 
stances would permit. It was probably on account of the severe 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 183 

weather that active military operations in our locality were that 
winter practically suspended. There were a few cavalry affairs at 
outlying posts, but none of any material importance. 

The most painful sight that I saw during the war was here 
at Little Rock this winter. It was the execution, by hanging, on 
January 8, 1864, of a Confederate spy, by the name of David 0. 
Dodds. He was a mere boy, seemingly not more than nineteen or 
twenty years old. There was no question as to his guilt. When 
arrested there was found on his person a memorandum book con 
taining information, written in telegraphic characters, in regard 
to all troops, batteries, and other military matters at Little Rock. 
He was tried by a court martial, and sentenced to the mode of 
death always inflicted on a spy, namely, by hanging. I suppose 
that the military authorities desired to render his death as im 
pressive as possible, in order to deter others from engaging in a 
business so fraught with danger to our armies; therefore, on the 
day fixed for carrying out the sentence of the court, all our troops 
in Little Rock turned out under arms and marched to the place of 
execution. It was in a large field near the town; a gallows had 
been erected in the center of this open space, and the troops formed 
around it in the form of an extensive hollow square, and stood at 
parade rest. The spy rode through the lines to the gallows in an 
open ambulance, sitting on his coffin. I happened to be not far 
from the point where he passed through, and saw him plainly. 
For one so young, he displayed remarkable coolness and courage 
when in the immediate presence of death. The manner of his ex 
ecution was wretchedly bungled, in some way, and the whole thing 
was to me indescribably repulsive. In the crisis of the affair there 
was a sudden clang of military arms and accouterments in the 
line not far from me, and looking in that direction I saw that a 
soldier in the front rank had fainted and fallen headlong to the 
ground. I didn t faint, but the spectacle, for the time being, well- 
nigh made me sick. It is true that from time immemorial the pun 
ishment of a convicted spy has been death by hanging. The safety 
of whole armies, even the fate of a nation, may perhaps depend on 



184 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

the prompt and summary extinction of the life of a spy. As long 
as he is alive he may possibly escape, or, even if closely guarded, 
may succeed in imparting his dangerous intelligence to others who 
will transmit it in his stead ; hence no mercy can be shown. But in 
spite of all that, this event impressed me as somehow being un 
speakably cruel and cold-blooded. On one side were thousands of 
men with weapons in their hands, coolly looking on; on the other 
was one lone, unfortunate boy. My conscience has never troubled 
me for anything I may have done on the firing line, in time of 
battle. There were the other fellows in plain sight, shooting, and 
doing all in their power to kill us. It was my duty to shoot at 
them, aim low, and kill some of them, if possible, and I did the 
best I could, and have no remorse whatever. But whenever my 
memory recalls the choking to death of that boy, (for that is what 
was done), I feel bad, and don t like to write or think about it. 
But, for fear of being misunderstood, it will be repeated that the 
fate of a spy, when caught, is death. It is a military necessity. 
The other side hanged our spies, with relentless severity, and were 
justified in so doing by laws and usages of war. Even the great 
and good Washington approved of the hanging of the British spy, 
Maj. Andre, and refused to commute the manner of his execution 
to being shot, although Andre made a personal appeal to him to 
grant him that favor, in order that he might die the death of a 
soldier. The point with me is simply this : I don t want person 
ally to have anything to do, in any capacity, with hanging a man, 
and don t desire even to be in eye-sight of such a gruesome thing, 
and voluntarily never have. However, it fell to my lot to be an in 
voluntary witness of two more military executions while in the 
service. I will speak of them now, and then be through with this 
disagreeable subject. On March 18th, 1864, two guerrillas were 
hanged in the yard of the penitentiary at Little Rock, by virtue of 
the sentence of a court martial, and my regiment acted as guard 
at the execution. We marched into the penitentiary inclosure, and 
formed around the scaffold in hollow square. As soon as this had 
been dene, a door on the ground floor of the penitentiary was 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 185 

swung open, and the two condemned men marched out, pinioned 
side by side, and surrounded by a small guard. The culprits were 
apparently somewhere between forty and fifty years of age. They 
ascended the scaffold, were placed with their feet on the trap, the 
nooses were adjusted, the trap was sprung, and it was all over. 
The crimes of which these men had been convicted were peculiarly 
atrocious. They were not members of any organized body of the 
Confederate army, but guerrillas pure and simple. It was con 
clusively established on their trial that they, with some associates, 
had, in cold blood, murdered by hanging several men of that 
/icinity, private citizens of the State of Arkansas, for no other 
cause or reason than the fact that the victinib were Union men. 
In some cases the murdered men had been torn from their beds at 
night, and hanged in their own door-yards, in the presence of their 
well-nigh distracted wives and children. There can be no ques 
tion that these two unprincipled assassins richly merited their 
fate, and hence it was impossible to entertain for them any feel 
ing of sympathy. Nevertheless, I stand by my original proposi 
tion, that to see any man strung up like a dog, and hanged in cold 
blood, is a nauseating and debasing spectacle. 

In January, 1864, while we were at Little Rock, the "veteran 
izing" project, as it was called, was submitted to the men. That is 
to say, we were asked to enlist for "three years more, or endurin 
the war." Sundry inducements for this were held out to the men, 
but the one which, at the time, had the most weight, was the 
promise of a thirty-days furlough for each man who re-enlisted. 
The men in general responded favorably to the proposition, and 
enough of the 61st re-enlisted to enable the regiment to retain its 
organization to the end of the war. On the evening of February 
1st, with several others of Co. D, I walked down to the adjutant s 
tent, and "went in" for three years more. I think that no better 
account of this re-enlistment business can now be given by me than 
by here inserting a letter I wrote on December 22nd, 1894, as a 
slight tribute to the memory of our acting regimental commander 
in February, 1864, Maj. Daniel Grass. He was later promoted 



186 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

to lieutenant-colonel, and after the war, came to Kansas, where, 
for many years, he was a prominent lawyer and politician. On 
the evening of December 18th, 1894, while he was crossing a rail 
road track in the town where he lived, (Coffeyville, Kansas,) he 
was struck by a railroad engine, and sustained injuries from 
which he died on December 21st, at the age of a little over seventy 
years. A few days thereafter the members of the bar of the 
county held a memorial meeting in his honor, which I was invited to 
attend. I was then judge of the Kansas 7th Judicial District, and* 
my judicial duties at the time were such that I could not go, and 
hence was compelled to content myself by writing a letter, which 
was later published in the local papers of the county, and which 
reads as follows: 

"Erie, Kansas, 
"December 22, 1894. 
"Hon. J. D. McCue, 

"Independence, Kansas. 
"My Dear Judge : 

"I received this evening yours of the 20th informing me of the 
death of my old comrade and regimental commander during the 
war for the Union, Col. Dan Grass. I was deeply moved by this 
sad intelligence, and regret that I did not learn of his death in 
time to attend his funeral. I wish I could be present at the memo 
rial meeting of the bar next Monday that you mention, but I have 
other engagements for that day that cannot be deferred. It af 
fords me, however, a mournful pleasure to comply with your re 
quest suggesting that I write a few words in the nature of a trib 
ute to our departed friend and comrade, to be read at this meet 
ing of the bar. But I am fearful that I shall perform this duty 
very unsatisfactorily. There are so many kind and good things 
that I would like to say about him that throng my memory at this 
moment that I hardly know where to begin. 

"I served in the same regiment with Col. Grass from January 
7th, 1862, to December 15th, 1864. On the last named day he was 
taken prisoner by the rebels in an engagement near Murfreesboro, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 187 

Tenn. He was subsequently exchanged, but by that time the war 
was drawing to a close, and he did not rejoin us again in the field. 
In May, 1865, he was mustered out of the service. During his term 
of service with us, (nearly three years,) I became very well ac 
quainted with him, and learned to admire and love him as a man 
and a soldier. He was temperate in his habits, courteous and 
kind to the common soldiers, and as brave a man in action as I 
ever saw. He was, moreover, imbued with the most fervid and in 
tense patriotism. The war with him was one to preserve the Re 
public from destruction, and his creed was that the government 
should draft, if necessary, every available man in the North, and 
spend every dollar of the wealth of the country, sooner than suf 
fer the rebellion to succeed, and the Nation to be destroyed. I 
think the most eloquent speech I ever heard in my life was one de 
livered by Col. Grass to his regiment at Little Rock, Arkansas, in 
February, 1864. The plan was then in progress to induce the 
veteran troops in the field to re-enlist for three years more. We 
boys called it veteranizing. For various reasons it did not take 
well in our regiment. Nearly all of us had been at the front with 
out a glimpse of our homes and friends for over two years. We 
had undergone a fair share of severe fighting and toilsome march 
ing and the other hardships of a soldier s life, and we believed we 
were entitled to a little rest when our present term should expire. 
Hence, re-enlisting progressed slowly, and it looked as if, so far as 
the 61st Illinois was concerned, that the undertaking was going 
to be a failure. While matters were in this shape, one day Col. 
Grass caused the word to be circulated throughout the regiment 
that he would make us a speech that evening at dress parade on 
the subject of veteranizing. At the appointed time we assembled 
on the parade ground with fuller ranks than usual, everybody 
being anxious to hear what Old Dan, as the boys called him, would 
say. After the customary movements of the parade had been per 
formed, the Colonel commanded, Parade, Rest! and without fur 
ther ceremony commenced his talk. Of course I cannot pretend, 
after this lapse of time, to recall all that he said. I remember best 



188 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

his manner and some principal statements, and the effect they pro 
duced on us. He began talking to us like a father would talk to a 
lot of dissatisfied sons. He told us that he knew we wanted to gc 
home; that we were tired of war and its hardships; that we 
wanted to see our fathers and mothers, and the girls we left be 
hind ; that he sympathized with us, and appreciated our feelings. 
But, boys/ said he, this great Nation is your father, and has a 
greater claim on you than anybody else in the world. This grea 
father of yours is fighting for his life, and the question for you to 
determine now is whether you are going to stay and help the old 
man out, or whether you are going to sneak home and sit down by 
the chimney corner in ease and comfort while your comrades by 
thousands and hundreds of thousands are marching, struggling 
fighting, and dying on battle fields and in prison pens to put down 
this wicked rebellion, and save the old Union. Stand by the old 
flag, boys! Let us stay and see this thing out! We re going to 
whip em in the end just as sure as God Almighty is looking down 
on us right now, and then we ll all go home together, happy and 
triumphant. And take my word for it, in after years it will be 
the proudest memory of your lives, to be able to say, "I stayed with 
the old regiment and the old flag until the last gun cracked and the 
war was over, and the Stars and Stripes were floating in triumph 
over every foot of the land! 

"I can see him in my mind s eye, as plain as if it were yester 
day. He stood firm and erect on his feet in the position of a sol 
dier, and gestured very little, but his strong, sturdy frame fairly 
quivered with the intensity of his feelings, and we listened in the 
most profound silence. 

"It was a raw, cold evening, and the sun, angry and red, was 
sinking behind the pine forests that skirted the ridges west of our 
camp when the Colonel concluded his address. It did not, I think, 
exceed more than ten minutes. The parade was dismissed, and the 
companies marched back to their quarters. As I put my musket 
on its rack and unbuckled my cartridge box, I said to one of my 
comrades, I believe the old Colonel is right ; I am going right now 




(Late Lieut. Colonel, 61st Illinois Infantry.) 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 189 

down to the adjutant s tent and re-enlist;" and go I did, but not 
alone. Down to the adjutant s tent that evening streamed the boys 
by the score and signed the rolls, and the fruit of that timely and 
patriotic talk that Dan Grass made to us boys was that the great 
majority of the men re-enlisted, and the regiment retained its or 
ganization and remained in the field until the end of the war. 

"But my letter is assuming rather lengthy proportions, and I 
must hasten to a close. I have related just one incident in the life 
of Col. Grass that illustrates his spirit of patriotism and love of 
country. I could speak of many more, but the occasion demands 
brevity. Of his career since the close of the war, in civil life here 
in Kansas, there are others better qualified to speak than I am. 
I will only say that my personal relations with him since he came 
to this State, dating away back in the early seventies, have con 
tinued to be, during all these years, what they were in the trying 
and perilous days of the war of the most friendly and fraternal 
character. To me, at least, he was always Col. Dan Grass, my regi 
mental commander; while he, as I am happy to believe, always 
looked upon and remembered me simply as Lee Stillwell, the little 
sergeant of Company D. 

"I remain very sincerely your friend, 

"L. STILLWELL." 



190 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XV. 



LITTLE ROCK. EXPEDITIONS TO AUGUSTA AND SPRING 
FIELD. MARCH, APRIL AND MAY, 1864. 

In the spring of 1864 it was determined by the military auth 
orities to undertake some offensive operations in what was styled 
the "Red River country," the objective point being Shreveport, 
Louisiana. Gen. N. P. Banks was to move with an army from New 
Orleans, and Gen. Steele, in command of the Department of Ar 
kansas, was to co-operate with a force from Little Rock. And here 
my regiment sustained what I regarded, and still regard, as a 
piece of bad luck. It was not included in this moving column, but 
was assigned to the duty of serving as provost guard of the city of 
Little Rock during the absence of the main army. To be left there 
in that capacity, while the bulk of the troops in that department 
would be marching and fighting was, from my standpoint, a most 
mortifying circumstance. But the duty that devolved on us had 
to be done by somebody, and soldiers can only obey orders. Our 
officers said at the time that only efficient and well-disciplined 
troops were entrusted with the position of provost-guards of a city 
the size of Little Rock, and hence that our being so designated was 
a compliment to the regiment. That sounded .plausible, and it may 
have been true, probably was, but I didn t like the job a bit. It 
may, however, have all been for the best, as this Red River ex 
pedition, especially the part undertaken by Gen. Banks, was a dis 
astrous failure. Gen. Steele left Little Rock about March 23rd, 
with a force, of all arms, of about 12,000 men, but got no further 
than Camden, Arkansas. Gen. Banks was defeated by the Con 
federates at the battle of Sabine Cross-Roads, in Louisiana, on 
April 8th, andl was forced to retreat. The enemy then was at 
liberty to concentrate on General Steele, and so he likewise was 
under the necessity of retreating, and scuttling back to Little Rock 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 191 

just as rapidly as possible. But on this retreat he and his men did 
some good, hard fighting, and stood off the Confederates effective 
ly. About the first intimation we in Little Rock had that our fel 
lows were coming back was when nearly every soldier in the city 
that was able to wield a mattock or a spade was detailed for 
fatigue duty and set to work throwing up breastworks, and kept at 
it, both day and night. I happened to see Gen. Steele when he 
rode into town on May 2nd, at the head of his troops, and he look 
ed tough. He had on a battered felt hat, with a drooping brim, an 
oil-cloth "slicker/ much the worse for wear, the ends of his panta 
loons were stuck in his boots, and he was just splashed and 
splattered with mud from head to foot. But he sat firm and erect 
in his saddle, (he was a magnificent horseman,) and his eyes were 
flashing as if he had plenty of fight left in him yet. And the 
rank and file of our retreating army was just the hardest looking 
outfit of Federal soldiers that I saw during the war, at any time. 
The most of them looked as if they had been rolled in the mud, 
numbers of them were barefoot, and I also saw several with the 
legs of their trousers all gone, high up, socking through the mud 
like big blue cranes. 

Iri view of the feverish haste with which Little Rock had been 
put in a state for defensive operations, and considering also all the 
reports in circulation, we fully expected that Price s whole army 
would make an attack on us almost any day. But the Confederates 
had been so roughly handled in the battle of Jenkins Ferry, April 
30th, on the Saline river, that none of their infantry came east of 
that river, nor any of their cavalry except a small body, which soon 
retired. The whole Confederate army, about May 1st, fell back to 
Camden, and soon, all was again quiet along the Arkansas. 

I will now go back about two weeks in order to give an ac 
count of a little expedition our regiment took part in when Gen. 
Steele s army was at Camden. 

Late on the evening of April 19th, we fell in, marched to the 
railroad depot, climbed on the cars, and were taken that night to 
Devall s Bluff. Next morning we embarked on the steamboat 



192 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

"James Raymond," and started up White river. The other troops 
that took part in the movement were the 3rd Minnesota Infantry 
and a detachment of the 8th Missouri Cavalry. We arrived at 
the town of Augusta, (about eighty miles by water from Devall s 
Bluff,) on the morning of the 21st. It was a little, old, dilapidated 
river town, largely in a deserted condition, situated on low, bot 
tom land, on the east bank of White river. On arriving we at 
once debarked from the boat, and all our little force marched out 
a mile or so east of the town, where we halted, and formed in line 
of battle in the edge of the woods, with a large open field in our 
front, on the other side of which were tall, dense woods. As there 
were no signs or indications of any enemy in the town, and every 
thing around was so quiet and sleepy, I couldn t understand what 
these ominous preparations meant. Happening to notice the old 
chaplain a short distance in the rear of our company, I slipped out 
of ranks, and walked back to him for the purpose of getting a 
pointer, if possible. He was by himself, and as I approached him, 
seemed to be looking rather serious. He probably saw inquiry in 
my eyes, and without waiting for question made a gesture with his 
hands towards the woods in our front, and said, "0 Son of Jere 
miah! Here is where we shall give battle to those who trouble 
Israel!" "What! What is that you say?" said I, in much astonish 
ment. "It is even so," he continued; "the Philistines are abroad 
in the land, having among them, as they assert, many valiant men 
who can sling stones at a hair s breadth and not miss. They await 
us, even now, in the forest beyond. But, Son of Jeremiah," said 
he, "if the uncircumcised heathen should assail the Lord s anointed, 
be strong, and quit yourself like a man!" "All right, Chaplain," 
I responded ; "I have forty rounds in the box, and forty on the per 
son, and will give them the best I .have in the shop. But, say! 
Take care of my watch, will you? And, should anything happen^ 
please send it to the folks at home;" and handing him my little 
old silver time-piece, I resumed my place in the ranks. After what 
seemed to me a most tiresome wait, we finally advanced, preceded 
by a line of skirmishers. I kept my eyes fixed on the woods in our 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 193 

front, expecting every minute to see burst therefrom puffs of 
white smoke, followed by the whiz of bullets and the crash of 
musketry, but nothing of the kind happened. Our skirmishers 
entered the forest, and disappeared, and still everything remained 
quiet. The main line followed, and after gaining the woods, we 
discovered plenty of evidence that they had quite recently been 
occupied by a body of cavalry. The ground was cut up by horses 
tracks, and little piles of corn in the ear, only partly eaten, were 
scattered around. We advanced through the woods and swamps 
for some miles and scouted around considerably, but found no 
enemy, except a few stragglers that were picked up by our cavalry. 
We left Augusta on the 24th, on our steamboat, and arrived at 
Little Rock on the same day. I met the chaplain on the boat while 
on our return, and remarked to him that,- "Those mighty men 
who could kill a jaybird with a sling-shot a quarter of a mile off 
didn t stay to see the show." "No," he answered; "when the sons 
of Belial beheld our warlike preparation, their hearts melted, and 
became as water; they gat every man upon his ass, and speedily 
fled, even beyond the brook which is called Cache." He then went 
on to tell me that oh our arrival at Augusta there was a body of 
Confederate cavalry near there, supposed to be about a thousand 
strong, under the command of a General McRae; that they were 
bivouacked in the woods in front of the line of battle we formed, 
and that on our approach they had scattered and fled. The enemy s 
force really exceeded ours, but, as a general proposition, their 
cavalry was reluctant to attack our infantry, in a broken country, 
unless they could accomplish something in the nature of a surprise, 
or otherwise have a decided advantage at the start. 

On May 16th we shifted our camp to Huntersville, on the left 
bank of the Arkansas river, and near our first location. We thus 
abandoned our log cabins, and never occupied them again. They 
were now getting too close and warm for comfort, anyhow. But 
they had been mighty good friends to us in the bitterly cold winter 
of 63-4, and during that time we spent many a cosy, happy day 
and night therein. 



194 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

On May 19th we again received marching orders, and the 
regiment left camp that night on the cars, and went to Hicks 
station, 28 miles from Little Rock. We remained here, bivouack 
ing in the woods, until the 22nd, when, at 3 o clock in the morning 
of that day, we took up the line of march, moving in a northerly 
direction. The troops that composed our force consisted of the 
61st, 54th, and 106th Illinois, and 12th Michigan (infantry regi 
ments), a battery of artillery, and some detachments of cavalry; 
Brig. Gen. J. R. West in command. We arrived at the town of 
Austin, 18 miles from Hicks Station, about 2 o clock on the after 
noon of the 22nd. It was a little country village, situated on a 
rocky, somewhat elevated ridge. As I understand, it is now a 
station on the Iron Mountain railroad, which has been built since 
the war. I reckon if in May, 1864, any one had predicted that 
some day a railroad would be built and in operation through that 
insignificant settlement among the rocks and trees, he would have 
been looked on as hardly a safe person to be allowed to run at 
large. 

Co. D started on the march with only one commissioned of 
ficer, Second Lieutenant Wallace. I have forgotten the cause of the 
absence of Capt. Keeley and Lieut. Warren, but there was doubt 
less some good reason. On the first day s march the weather was 
hot, and the route was through a very rough and broken country. 
Wallace was overcome by heat, and had to fall out, and wait for an 
ambulance. In consequence, it so happened that when we reached 
Austin, there was no commissioned officer with us, and I, as first 
sergeant, was in command of the company. And that gave rise 
to an incident which, at the time, swelled me up immensely. On 
arriving at the town, the regiment halted on some open ground in 
the outskirts, fell into line, dressed on the colors, and stood at or 
dered arms. Thereupon the adjutant commanded, "Commanding 
officers of companies, to the front and center, march!" I was 
completely taken by surprise by this command, and for a second or 
two stood, dazed and uncertain. But two or three of the boys 
spoke up at once and said, "You re our commanding officer, Still- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 195 

well; go!" The situation by this time had also dawned on me, so I 
promptly obeyed the command. But I must have been a strange 
looking "commanding officer." I was barefooted, breeches rolled 
up nearly to the knees, feet and ankles "scratched and tanned," 
and my face covered with sweat and dirt. The closest scrutiny 
would have failed to detect in me a single feature of the supposed 
"pomp and circumstance" of an alleged military hero. But I 
stalked down the line, bare feet and all, with my musket at a 
shoulder arms, and looking fully as proud, I imagine, as Henry of 
Navarre ever did at the battle of Ivry, with "a snow-white plume 
upon his gallant crest." By the proper and usual commands, the 
"commanding officers of companies" were brought up and halted 
within a few paces of Col. Ohr, who thereupon addressed them as 
follows : 

"Gentleman, have your men stack arms where they now are, 
and at once prepare their dinner. They can disperse to get wood 
and water, but caution them strictly not to wander far from the 
gun stacks. We may possibly pass the night here, but we may 
be called on, at any moment, to fall in and resume the march. 
That s all, gentlemen." 

While the Colonel was giving these instructions, I thought a 
sort of unusual twinkle sparkled in his eyes, as they rested on me. 
But, for my part, I was never more serious in my life. Returning 
to the company, I gave the order to stack arms, which being done, 
the boys crowded around me, plying me with questions. "What did 
the Colonel say? What s up, Stillwell?" I assumed a prodigiously 
fierce and authoritative look and said: "Say, do you fellows sup 
pose that we commanding officers of companies are going to give 
away to a lot of lousy privates a confidential communication from 
the Colonel ? If you are guilty of any more such impertinent con 
duct, I ll have every mother s son of you bucked and gagged." The 
boys all laughed, and after a little more fun of that kind, I repeat 
ed to them literally every word the Colonel said, and then we all 
set about getting dinner. About this time Lieut. Wallace rode up 
in an ambulance and my reign was over. We resumed the inarch 



196 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

at 3 o clock in the morning of the next day (May 23rd), march 
ed 18 miles, and bivouacked that night at Peach Orchard Gap. 
This was no town, simply a natural feature of the country. Left 
here next morning (the 24th) at daylight, marched 18 miles, and 
bivouacked on a stream called Little Cadron. Left at daylight 
next morning (the 25th), marched 18 miles, and went into camp 
near the town of Springfield. By this time the intelligence had 
filtered down to the common soldiers as to the object of this ex 
pedition. It was to intercept, and give battle to, a force of Con 
federate cavalry, under Gen. J. 0. Shelby, operating somewhere 
in this region, and supposed to have threatening designs on the 
Little Rock and DevalPs Bluff railroad. But so far as encounter 
ing the Confederates was concerned, the movement was an entire 
failure. My experience during the war warrants the assertion, I 
think, that it is no use to send infantry after cavalry. It is very 
much like like a man on foot trying to run down a jack-rabbit. It 
may be that infantry can sometimes head off cavalry, and thereby 
frustrate an intended movement, but men on horses can t be 
maneuvered into fighting men on foot unless the horsemen are 
willing to engage. Otherwise they will just keep out of the way. 
We remained at Springfield until May 28th. It was a little 
place and its population when the war began was probably not 
more than a hundred and fifty, or two hundred. It was the 
county seat of Conway county, but there was no official business 
being transacted there now. About all the people had left, except 
al few old men and some women and small children. The houses 
were nearly all log cajbins. Even the county jail was a log struct 
ure of a very simply and unimposing type. It has always been 
my opinion that this" little place was the most interesting and ro 
mantic-looking spot (with one possible exception I may speak of 
later) that I saw in the South during all my army service. The 
town was situated on rather high ground, and in the heart of the 
primitive forest. Grand native trees were growing in the door- 
yards, and even in the middle of the main street, and all around 
everywhere. And we were there at a season of the year when 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 197 

Nature was at its best, and all the scenery was most attractive and 
charming. I sometimes would sit down at the foot of some big 
tree in the center of the little village, and ponder on what surely 
must have been the happy, contented condition of its people before 
the war came along and spoiled all. Judging from the looks of 
the houses, the occupants doubtless had been poor people and prac 
tically all on the same financial footing, so there was no occasion 
for envy. And there was no railroad, nor telegrapih line, nor daily 
papers, to keep them nervous and excited or cause them to worry. 
And they were far away from the busy haunts of congregated 
men, 

Their best companions, innocence and health, 
And their best riches, ignorance of wealth." 

Their trading point was Lewisburg, about fifteen miles southwest 
on the Arkansas river, and when that stream was at a proper stage, 
small steamboats would ply up and down, and bring to Lewisburg 
groceries and dry goods, and such other things as the country did 
not produce, which would then be wagoned out to Springfield and 
into the country generally. And judging from all that could be 
seen or heard, I think there were hardly any slaves at Springfield, 
or in, the entire north part of Conway county, before the war. 
What few there may have been were limited to the plantations 
along the Arkansas river. I have never been at the little town 
since the occasion now mentioned, so personally I know nothing of 
its present appearance and condition. However, as a matter of 
general information, it may be said that after the war a railroad 
was built running up the Arkansas river valley, through the south 
part of the county. This road left Springfield out, so in course 
of time it lost the county seat, which went to a railroad town. And 
this road also missed Lewisburg, which has now disappeared from 
the map entirely. 

When in camp at Springfield, many of the boys, in accordance 
with their usual habits, of their own motion at once went to scout 
ing around over the adjacent country, after pigs, or chickens, or 
anything else that would serve to vary army fare. While so en- 



198 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

gaged two or three of our fellows discovered a little old whisky still. 
It was about two miles from Springfield, situated in a deep, timber 
ed hollow, near a big spring. It was fully equipped for active op 
eration, with a supply of "mash" on hands, and all other essentials 
for turning out whisky. Some of the 10th Illinois Cavalry found 
it first, and scared away the proprietor, then took charge of the 
still and proceeded to carry on the business on their own account. 
The boys of the 61st who stumbled on the place were too few to 
cope with the cavalrymen; thereupon they hastened back to camp 
and informed some trusty comrades of the delectable discovery. 
Forthwith they organized a strong party as an alleged "provost 
guard," and all armed, and under the command of a daring, reckless 
duty sergeant, hastened to the still. On arriving there, in their 
capacity as provost guards, they summarily arrested the cavalry 
men, with loud threats of condign punishment, but after scaring 
them sufficiently, and on their solemn promise to at once return 
to camp and "be good" in the future, released them, and allowed 
them to depart. Then our bunch stacked arms, and started in to 
make whisky. Some of the number had served in the business be 
fore, and knew all about it, so that little still there in the hollow 
was then and there worked to its utmost capacity, day and night, 
and doubtless as it never had been before. Knowledge of this en 
terprise spread like wild-fire among the enlisted men, and oh, 
"how the whisky went down" at Springfield! Away along some 
hours after midnight, I would hear some of the boys coming in from 
the still, letting out keen, piercing whoops that could be heard 
nearly a mile. Like the festive Tarn O Shanter (with apologies 
to Burns), 

"The swats sae reamed in every noddle, 
They cared na rebs nor guards a boddle." 

I took just one little taste of the stuff, from Sam Ralston s canteen. 
It was limpid and colorless as water, and fairly burnt like fire as it 
went down my throat. That satisfied my curiosity, and after that 
many similar offers were declined, with thanks. Whether the of 
ficers at the time knew of this business or not, I do not know. If 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 199 

they did, they just "winked the other eye/ and said nothing, for 
the boys ran the still, without restriction or interruption, until we 
left Springfield. 

Telling of the foregoing episode causes many other incidents 
to come flocking to my memory that came under my notice during 
my army career, and in which whisky figured more or less. The in 
satiable, inordinate appetite of some of the men for intoxicating 
liquor, of any kind, was something remarkable, and the ingenious 
schemes they would devise to get it were worthy of admiration, had 
they been exerted in a better cause. And they were not a bit 
fastidious about the kind of liquor, it was the effect that was de 
sired. One afternoon, a day or two after we arrived at Helena, 
Arkansas, a sudden yell, a sort of "ki-yip !" was heard issuing from 
one of the company tents, soon followed by others of the same 
tone. I had heard that peculiar yelp before, and knew what it 
meant. Presently I sauntered down to the tent from whence the 
sounds issued, and walked in. Several of the boys were seated 
around, in an exalted state of vociferous hilarity, and a flat, pint 
bottle, with the figure of a green leaf on one side, and labeled 
"Bay Rum" on the other, was promptly handed to me, with the in 
vitation to "drink hearty." I did taste it. It was oily, greasy, 
and unpleasant, but there was no doubt that it was intoxicating. 
It was nothing but bay rum, the same stuff that in those days 
barbers were wont to use in their line of business. It finally came 
to light that the sutler of some regiment at Helena had induced 
the post-quartermaster at Cairo to believe that the troops stood in 
urgent need of bay rum for the purpose of anointing their hair, 
and thereupon he obtained permission to include several boxes of 
the stuff in his sutler supplies. When he got it to Helena he pro 
ceeded to sell it at a dollar a bottle, and his stock was exhausted in 
a few hours. What may have been done to this sutler I don t 
know, but that was the last and only time that I know of bay rum 
being sold to the soldiers as a toilet article, or otherwise. Of 
course, all sutlers and civilians were prohibited, under severe pen 
alties, from selling intoxicating liquor to the enlisted men, but the 



200 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

profits were so large that the temptation was great to occasionally 
transgress, in some fashion. But, as a general rule, I think that 
the orders were scrupulously obeyed. The risk was too great to 
do otherwise. 

I remember a little personal experience of my own, when once 
I tried to buy a drink of whisky. It is not a long story, so it will 
be told. It occurred at Devall s Bluff, in October, 1863, when our 
little furlough party was there, waiting the arrival of a boat from 
below on which to resume our homeward journey. One night in 
particular was quite cold. We slept in our blankets on the ground 
near the bank of the river, built good fires, and tried to keep as 
comfortable as possible. But the morning after this cold night I 
got up feeling wretched, both mentally and physically. I was weak 
from previous illness, my rheumatic pains were worse, and my 
condition in general was such as caused me to fear that I was liable 
to break down and not be able to go home. It occurred to me that 
a drink of whisky might brace me up some, so I started out to ob 
tain one, if possible. There was a sort of a wharf-boat at the 
landing, moored to the bank, a stationary, permanent affair, with 
a saloon appurtenant. I went on the boat, walked up to the bar, 
and exhibiting a greenback to the bar-keeper, asked him if he 
would sell me a drink of whisky. "Can t do it," he answered, 
"the orders are strict against selling whisky to soldiers." I began 
moving A way, and at that instant a big, greasy, colored deck-hand, 
or laborer of some sort, black as the ace of spades, crowded by me, 
brushing against me in the narrow passage on his way to the bar. 
"Boss," he called to the keeper, "want a dram!" A bottle and a 
glass were pushed towards him, he filled the glass to the brim, and 
drank the contents at a gulp. Then he smacked his big lips, rolled 
his eyes around, and with a deep breath exclaimed, "A-h-h! Dat 
whisky feels des pow ful good dis cole mawnin !" I looked at the 
darkey in bitterness of heart, and couldn t help thinking that it 
was all-fired mean, when a poor little sick soldier was not allowed 
to buy a drink of whisky, while a great big buck nigger roustabout 
had it handed out to him with cheerfulness and alacrity. But the 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 201 

orders forbidding the sale of intoxicating liquors to soldiers were 
all right, and an imperative military necessity. If the men had 
been allowed unlimited access to whisky, and the like, that would, 
in my opinion, simply have been ruinous to the good order, dis 
cipline, and efficiency of the army. That statement is based on 
events I saw myself while in the service, and which occurred when, 
in spite of the orders, the men managed to obtain liquor without 
let or hindrance. The scenes that would then ensue are too un 
pleasant to talk about, so they will be passed over in silence. It is 
only fair, however, to say that the same men who, when furiously 
drunk, were a disgrace to themselves and the organization to which 
they belonged, were, as a general rule, faithful and brave soldiers 
when sober. 

At 4 o clock on the morning of the 28th we broke camp at 
Springfield, and started back to Little Rock, marching in a south 
easterly direction. We marched all that day, the 29th, 30th, and 
31st, and arrived at our old camp at Huntersville at 9 o clock in the 
evening of the last mentioned day. According to the official re 
port the entire distance marched on the expedition, going and com 
ing, was 190 miles, and we didn t see an armed Confederate on the 
whole trip. Our return route was through the wilderness, most of 
it primeval forest, and we didn t pass through a single town. But 
now there is a railroad that runs practically over all the course 
we followed during the last three days we were on this march. I 
haven t been in that region since we passed through there in May, 
1864, but at that time it certainly was a very wild, rough, an)d 
broken country. We here had our first experience with scorpions 
and tarantulas, and soon learned that it was prudent, when biv 
ouacking on the ground, to carefully turn over all loose rocks and 
logs in order to find and get rid of those ugly customers. The 
scorpions were about four or five inches long, the fore part of the 
body something like a crawfish, with a sharp stinger on the end 
of the tail. When excited or disturbed, they would curl their tails 
over their backs, and get over the ground quite rapidly. The tar 
antulas were just big hairy spiders, of a blackish-gray color, about 



202 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

as big as toads, and mighty ugly-looking things. The sting of the 
tarantula, and the bite of a spider, were very painful, but when 
that happened to any of us (which was seldom), our remedy was 
to apply a big, fresh quid of tobacco to the. wound, which would 
promptly neutralize the poison. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 203 



CHAPTER XVI. 

DEVALL S BLUFF ; THE CLARENDON EXPEDITION. JUNE 
AND JULY, 1864. 

On June 20th we left Huntersville on the cars and went to 
Hick s Station, hereinbefore mentioned, and there went into camp. 
In making this move, we left Little Rock for the last time, and from 
that day I have never seen the old town again. But our stay at 
Hicks Station was brief. Marching orders came on June 24th, and 
on the next day we left on the cars and went to Devall s Bluff, and 
on reaching there filed on board the steamer "Kentucky," and 
started down White river, accompanied by several other boats also 
loaded with troops, all under the command of Gen. E. A. Carr. 
The object and purpose of this expedition was soon noised around 
among the men. The daring and enterprising Confederate Gen 
eral Shelby had on June 24th turned up at Clarendon, on White 
river, not far below DevalPs Bluff, and here, with the aid of his 
artillery, had surprised and captured one of our so-called "tin-clad" 
gunboats, and had established a blockade of the river. As all our 
supplies came by way of that stream, it was necessary to drive 
Shelby away at once, hence our movement. We arrived at Clar 
endon on the morning of the 26th. Some of our gunboats were 
with us, in advance, and as soon as they came within range of the 
town began shelling it, and the woods beyond. The cannonade 
elicited no reply, and it was soon ascertained that the enemy had 
fallen back from the river. The transports thereupon landed, the 
men marched on shore, formed in line of battle, and advanced. 
The Confederates were found in force about two miles northeast 
of town, and some lively skirmishing and artillery practice began. 
But our regiment was stationed in the supporting line, (darn it!) 
and didn t get to pull a trigger. Cannon shot went over our 
heads now and then, but hurt nobody. While the racket was go- 



204 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

ing on we were standing in line of battle, on the hither side of an 
extensive cotton field, and there was a big, tall cottonwood tree 
standing about a quarter of a mile in our front by the side of the 
road. I was looking in that direction when suddenly, as if by 
magic, a big forked branch of this tree quietly took leave of the 
trunk, as if it "didn t know how it happened." Before it struck 
the ground the shot from one of Shelby s guns that had done this 
pruning went screaming over our heads. It sounded just real 
good, like old times, with an effect, somehow, like a powerful tonic. 
But the affair didn t last long. Shelby had no stomach for fighting 
infantry, well supplied with artillery, and he soon fell back, and 
rapidly retreated in a northerly direction, leaving two pieces of his 
artillery in our possession. When the Confederates retired, we 
followed promptly and vigorously, but of course the infantry 
couldn t overhaul them, and neither could our cavalry bring them 
to a determined stand. Our route was largely through a low, 
swampy country, over a "corduroy" road. In many places there 
were large gaps in the corduroy, where the logs had rotted and 
disappeared, and the road was covered with green and slimy water 
about knee-deep. On encountering the first of these breaks, we 
took off our shoes and socks, tied them to the ends of the barrels 
of our muskets, rolled up our trousers, and waded in. As such 
places were numerous, it was not worth while to resume our foot 
gear, so we just trudged on bare-footed. But the weather was 
warm, and it made no difference, and the boys would splash 
through the mud and water in great good humor, laughing and jok 
ing as they went. We followed hard after Shelby until the even 
ing of the 27th, and it being impossible to catch up with him, we 
started back to Clarendon on the morning of the 28th. 
In the matter of rations I reckon "someone had blundered," 
when we started in pursuit of Shelby. We had left 
Clarendon with only a meager supply in our haversacks, and no 
provision train was with the command. So at the time we took 
the back track we were out of anything to eat. The country bor 
dering on our route was wild, and thinly settled, and what people 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 205 

lived there were manifestly quite poor, hence there was very little 
in the shape of anything to eat that we could forage. On the first 
day of our return march our commissary sergeant, Bonfoy, did 
manage to capture and kill a gaunt, lean old Arkansas steer, and 
it was divided up among the men with almost as much nicety and 
exactness as if it was a wedding cake with a prize diamond ring in 
it ; and we hadn t any salt to go with it, but in lieu of that used gun 
powder, which was a sort of substitute. With that exception, (and 
a piece of hardtack, to be presently mentioned,) my bill of fare on 
the return march until we reached Clarendon consisted, in the 
main, of a green, knotty apple, and some sassafras buds. About 
the middle of the afternoon on the second day the regiment made a 
temporary halt for some purpose, and we were sitting, or lying 
down, along the road side. There was a bunch of our cavalry on 
their horses, in column off the road a short distance, also at a halt, 
and I saw one of them munching a hardtack. I slipped out of ranks 
and approached the fellow, and when close to him said, "Partner, 
won t you give me a hardtack?" He looked at me a second or 
two without saying anything, and I was fearful that my appeal 
was going to be denied. But the look of ravenous hunger in my 
eyes probably gained the case, for at last he reached his hand into 
his haversack and handed me a tack, one of the big kind about four 
or five inches square. I was barely in time, for right then the 
cavalry moved on. I thrust the tack into my shirt bosom, gave a 
quick, furtive glance towards the company to see if anyone had ob 
served me, and then started to get behind a big tree, where the 
precious morsel could be devoured without risk of detection. But 
John Barton had been watching, and was upon me before I could 
hide. "Hold on, Stillwell," said he, "that don t go! I divided with 
you as long as I had a crumb!" "That s so, John," I replied, 
heaving a mournful sigh, "here;" and breaking the hardtack in two, 
I gave him a fair half, and standing behind the tree we promptly 
gobbled down our respective portions. 

We arrived at Clarendon on the evening of the 29th having 
marched, in going and returning, about seventy miles. Here 



206 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

everybody got a square meal, which was heartily appreciated. As 
bearing on the above mentioned incident about the hardtack, it 
will be said here, basing my remarks on my experience in the army, 
and elsewhere, that I think there is nothing that will reduce human 
beings so much to the level of the brute creation as intense, gnaw 
ing hunger. All the selfishness there is in a man will then come 
to the surface, and to satisfy the well-nigh intolerable craving for 
something to eat, he will "go back" on his best friend. I could 
cite several instances in support of this statement that have come 
under my observation, but it is unnecessary. 

Soon after reaching Clarendon, as above stated, fires burst 
forth, apparently simultaneously, all over the town, and soon every 
building was in ashes. It was a small place, and its population at 
the beginning of the war probably did not exceed three hundred. 
At this time the town had been abandoned by the residents, and so 
far as I know the houses were all vacant. The buildings were 
small frame or log structures, composed of cypress and pine lum 
ber or logs, roofed with shingles, and highly combustible, and they 
made an exceedingly hot fire. I do not know the cause of the 
burning of the town. The soldiers were tired, mad, and out of 
sorts generally, and they may have fired it on their own motion, 
but it is more likely that it was done by order of the military 
authorities. The empty houses afforded excellent cover whereby 
the Confederates could slip up to the river bank and annoy our 
gunboats, even to the extent of capturing one, as they had done 
quite recently. So as a military measure the burning of the town 
was fully justified. 

We left Clarendon on the evening of the 29th, on the steamer 
"Lillie Martin," arrived at Devall s Bluff some time during the 
night, debarked from the boat next morning, and went into camp 
near the river, where we enjoyed for a time an agreeable rest. 

Before taking final leave of the Clarendon expedition I will, in 
the interest of the truth of history, indulge in a little criticism of 
the gallant and distinguished officer who was the Confederate com 
mander in this affair. All who are conversant with the military 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 207 

career of General J. 0. Shelby will readily concede that he was a 
brave, skillful, and energetic cavalry commander. He kept us in 
hot water almost continually in the Trans-Mississippi department, 
and made us a world of trouble. But I feel constrained to remark 
that, in reporting his military operations, he was, sometimes, a 
most monumental - - well, I ll scratch out the "short and ugly" 
word I have written, and substitute "artist," and let it go at that. 
I have just been reading his reports of this Clarendon episode, as 
they appear on pages 1050-1053, Serial Number 61, Official Records 
of the War of the Rebellion, and as he describes it, it is difficult to 
recognize it as being the same affair we took part in, in June, 1864. 
In the first place, he says that the loss of the Federals can "safely 
be put down at 250 killed and wounded," and that 30 will cover his 
own. On the other hand, our commander, Gen. Carr, says the 
Confederate loss, killed, wounded and captured, was "about" 74, 
and gives ours as 1 killed and 16 wounded. (Ib., p. 1047.) And 
from what I personally saw, I have no doubt that Gen. Carr s 
statements are correct. Shelby further asserts that "three times" 
he drove us "back to the river," and that later, while on his re 
treat, he "charged" us and "drove them (us) back three miles in 
confusion." Now, those statements are pure moonshine. I was 
there, and while, as previously stated, not on the firing line, was 
nevertheless in a position either to see or hear every thing of any 
material consequence that transpired. The force on each side was 
comparatively small, the field of active operations was limited, and 
it was not difficult for even a common soldier to have an intelligent 
idea of what was going on. And, for my part, with the natural 
curiosity of a boy, I was constantly on the alert to see or hear 
everything that was being done in the shape of fighting. In the 
operations near the town, we were not driven "back to the river," 
nor towards it, on any occasion. On his retreat, Shelby did make 
one or two feeble stands, the object being merely to delay us until 
his main body could get well out of the way, and when that was 
accomplished, his rear guard galloped after them as fast as they 
could. That it was mainly a race with him to get away is evident 



208 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

from a statement in his report, in which he says he was then 
(June 30th) "resting" his "tired and terribly jaded horses." 
But, in telling of his exploits, he says nothing about losing two 
pieces of his artillery. The saying of Bonaparte s, "False as a 
war bulletin," has passed into a proverb, and this bulletin of Gen. 
Shelby s is no exception. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 209 



CHAPTER XVII. 

DEVALL S BLUFF. GRAND REVIEWS AND INSPECTIONS. 

-SURGEON J. P. ANTHONY. PRIVATE PRESS 

ALLENDER. JUNE AND JULY, 1864. 

I have said nothing so far about "grand reviews," or other 
functions of that sort, and here is us good a place as any to notice 
them. From so ne cause or other we had what seemed to us an 
undue proportion of grand reviews in Arkansas in the summer of 
1864. They were not a bit popular with the common soldiers. It 
became a saying among us, when a grand review was ordered, that 
the reviewing officer had got a new uniform and wanted to show 
it but, of course, that was only soldier talk. 

On June 10th, while in camp at Huntersville, all the troops at 
Little Rock were reviewed by Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, late of 
the Army of the Potomac. He lost a leg* at the battle of Gettys 
burg, which incapacitated him for active service, so President 
Lincoln gave him a sort of roving commission to visit and inspect 
all the western troops. In conducting the review at Little Rock, 
on account of his maimed condition he rode along the line in an 
open carriage. The day was exceedingly hot, the troops on our 
side of the river were reviewed on low grounds where the air was 
stifling, we wore our jackets tightly buttoned, and we all suffered 
fearfully from heat. One man in the line near me went over with 
a crash, all in a pile, from sunstroke, and I heard that there were 
several other such cases. Nine days later, (June 19th,) we had 
division grand review conducted by our division commander, Gen. 
C. C. Andrews, and on July llth another grand review by the 
same officer. And interspersed with the reviews were several 
brigade inspections of arms. But as those did not involve any 
marching, they were not as fatiguing as the reviews. I will men 
tion specifically but one of these inspections, and do so for the 



210 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

reason that there were some things connected with it I have always 
remembered with interest and pleasure. It was held on July 4th, at 
Devall s Bluff, the inspecting officer being Col. Randolph B. Marcy, 
Inspector-General U. S. Army. He was a regular army officer, a 
graduate of West Point, and at this time was about fifty-two years 
of age. He was over six feet tall, straight as an arrow, and H 
splendid looking man in general. We had very short notice of this 
inspection, and having returned only a few days before from the 
Clarendon expedition, had not yet had time or opportunity to wash 
our shirts, and were in quite a rough and tough condition. And 
the fact that this inspection was to be. conducted by the Inspector- 
General of the United States Army, an old regular, and a West 
Point graduate, made us nervous, and we apprehended all sorts of 
trouble. So far as I ever knew, the volunteers had not much love 
for the regular army officers. We regarded them as unreasonably 
strict and technical, and were of the impression that they were 
inclined to "look down" on volunteers. Whether this feeling was 
well founded, or not, I cannot say, but there is no question that it 
existed. On this occasion we went to work with a will, and soon 
had our muskets, bayonets, belt-plates, and accouterments in gen 
eral, bright and shining, and in the very pink of condition. It 
was to be an inspection of arms only, and did not include knapsacks. 
About 9 o clock on the morning of July 4th, we fell in on the regi 
mental parade ground, broke into columns of companies, right in 
front, in open order, and the greatly feared Inspector-General en 
tered on his duty. As already stated, we looked hard. Many of 
us were barefoot, and our clothes in general were dirty and ragged. 
But Col. Marcy knew we had just come off a march, he was a very 
sensible man, and capable of making some allowances. In accord 
ance with the regulations, he passed in front of us, walking slowly 
and looking at us critically. As he came opposite each soldier, the 
latter brought his piece into the prescribed position for examina 
tion, but Col. Marcy contented himself with a sweeping glance, and 
did not take the musket in his hands. Then he passed to the rear 
of the ranks, and walked slowly along behind us, while we stood 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 21 1 

immovable, with eyes fixed to the front. It was soon all over. 
He then approached Col. Ohr, said something I did not hear, but 
which was evidently pleasant, for the Colonel smiled, then turned 
round facing us, and with a sweep of his arm in our direction said, 
loud enough for many of us to hear, "Good soldiers !" where 
upon we all felt much relieved and proud, and the dreaded in 
spection was a thing of the past. Several years afterwards, when 
in civil life out in Kansas, I learned that Col. Marcy was not only 
a grand old soldier, but also a most interesting writer. I have two 
of his books in my library now, and have had for many years, 
one being his official report of the "Exploration of the Red River of 
Louisiana, in the year 1852 ;" the other, "Thirty Years of Army 
Life on the Border." Both are highly interesting, and I frequently 
take them from the shelf and look them over. And when I do so, 
there always rises. up on about every page the recollection of the 
tall, imposing figure of Col. Marcy, as he stood beneath the oaks 
at Devall s Bluff, Arkansas, on the morning of July 4th, 1864, and 
waved his arm towards us, and said in a kind tone, and with ap 
proving look: "Good soldiers!" 

There was in Company D an original sort of a character, by 
the name of Ambrose Pressley Allender, for short, generally 
called "Press." He was at this time (1864) about thirty-five 
years old. He had been a private in a regiment of Kentucky in 
fantry during the Mexican War, but what the length of his service 
may have been I do not know. But in his Mexican War experience 
he had at least learned every possible trick and device that could be 
resorted to in "playing off," as the boys called it; that is, avoiding 
duty on the plea of sickness or any other excuse that would serve. 
He was not a bad man, by any means, but a good-hearted old fel 
low. He had re-enlisted, along with the rest of us, when the regi 
ment "veteranized." But his propensity for shirking duty, es 
pecially anything severe or unpleasant, seemed inveterate and in 
curable. He made me lots of trouble, for some time, after I be 
came first sergeant. I was only a boy, and he was a man of 
mature age, about fifteen years my senior, and looking back to 



212 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

those days, I can see now where many times he pulled the wool 
over my eyes completely and induced me to grant him favors in the 
matter of details that he was not entitled to. But it was not long 
before I began to understand Press, and then, if he was excused 
from duty, or passed over for a lighter job, the authority had to 
come from the regimental surgeon. Dr. Julius P. Anthony, of 
Brown county, Illinois, was appointed surgeon of the regiment in 
September, 1863, and remained with us in that capacity until we 
were mustered out of the service. He was not a handsome man, 
by any means. He was hawk-nosed, with steel-blue eyes, and had 
a most peculiar sort of a high-keyed, nasal toned voice. But he 
was an excellent physician, and a shrewd, accurate judge of men. 
So, when Press bucked up against Dr. Anthony, he found a foeman 
worthy of his steel, and the keen-eyed old doctor was a different 
proposition from a boy orderly sergeant. Press would keep close 
watch of the details as they progressed down the company roll, and 
when he was next in turn, and the impending duty was one he did 
not fancy, would then retire to his tent or shack, and when wanted 
for picket, or some laborious fatigue duty, would be found curled 
up in his bunk and groaning dismally. When we were at Devall s 
Bluff, at a time about the last of July, 1864, I discovered him in this 
condition one morning before sick call, when I went to apprise 
him (out of abundant caution) that he was next for duty, and not 
to wander from the camp. He forthwith told me he was very sick, 
hadn t slept a wink all night, and that I must pass over him for the 
time being. I replied that if he was sick, he must fall in at sick- 
call, and have thei surgeon pass on his case, so he climbed out of 
his bunk, put on his trousers, and made ready. Sick-call was 
sounded pretty soon, and I went with Press and two or three of the 
other boys to the surgeon s tent. Press kept in the background 
until the other cases were disposed of, and then stepped forward. 
His breeches were unbuttoned down to nearly the last button, he 
was holding them up with his hands, and his stomach protruded 
like the belly of a brood-sow. "Well, Allender," inquired Dr. 
Anthony, "egad, what s the matter with you?" Press was care- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 213 

ful to put on all the military frills at such a time, and he began 
thus: "Major Anthony, First Sergeant Stillwell has several times 
putten me on duty when I was not fitten for duty, and so I am now 
compelled to come to you, and " "That ll do, Allender," inter 
rupted the doctor, "what are your symptoms?" Press then began 
the story of his woes. He had racking pains in the stomach, head 
ache, couldn t sleep, "all bloated up," he said, "as you can see for 
yourself;" with a comprehensive gesture towards his abdominal 
region, and numerous other troubles, including "night sweats." 
Dr. Anthony heard him patiently, and without interruption, but 
scanned him closely all the time he was talking. Press at last 
stopped to take breath, and then the doctor, in his rasping voice, 
spoke as follows: "Allender, the trouble with you is simply exer 
cising too little, and eating too much. And if you don t quit stuff 
ing yourself, and get around more, I shall instruct Sergeant Still- 
well to put you on fatigue duty every day until you are rid of that 
mass of fermenting fecal matter in your bowels, and your stomach 
is restored to normal condition. That s all." Then addressing me, 
he said : "Allender s able for duty ;" and Press and I walked out. 
As soon as we were beyond the hearing of Dr. Anthony, Press 
turned loose. He was a terribly profane fellow when, in his 
opinion, ordinary language would not do the subject justice, and had 
accumulated a stock of the most unique and outrageous expres 
sions that could be invented, and all these he now fired at the Doc 
tor. Having no desire to put salt on a green wound, I said noth 
ing. In perhaps an hour or so the first sergeant s call was sounded 
at the adjutant s tent, which meant a detail. I responded to the call, 
and the Sergeant-Major, consulting the regimental detail slip he 
held in his hand, told me he wanted a corporal and five privates 
from my company, with two days rations, to help make up a scout 
ing party going up White river on a steamboat, and for them to 
report in fifteen minutes. That caught old Press, and I went to his 
shack expecting a scene. He was found lying on his bunk, in his 
drawers and shirt as usual in such emergencies. I proceeded to 
detail him as one of the scouting party, and told him to be all ready 



214 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

within fifteen minutes. In the meantime, the weather had 
changed, and a disagreeable, drizzling rain was falling. Press 
heaved a deep sigh when informed of his detail, and began to beg 
and protest. I told him that the doctor had refused to excuse him, 
that he was the next man on the roll for duty, that I had no dis 
cretion in the matter, and he would have to get ready and go. But, 
if he was feeling worse, I would go with him again to the doctor, 
and request him to look further into his case. Press sprang out of 
his bunk with a bound, and grabbed his trousers. "Before I ll ever 
go again," he said, "to that hawk-nosed old blankety-blank-blank, 
to get excused from duty, I ll see him in hell further than a pigeon 
can fly in a leap year. He hasn t got sense enough, anyhow, to 
doctor an old dominecker hen that is sick with a sore [anus] , much 
less a civilized human being. You could let me off this detail, if 
you wanted to, and let me tell you, Stillwell, if this trip kills me, 
which it probably will, I want you to remember, as long as you live, 
that the responsibility for my death lies on your head !" This last 
statement, I will confess, rather staggered me, and had it been 
delivered! in a weak and pitiful tone, there is no telling what I! 
might have done. But he didn t "roar" me "as gently as a sucking 
dove," by a long shot, for his voice was full and loud, and quivering 
with energy and power. So I made no response to this dire pre 
diction; Press got ready, and went. The weather cleared up in a 
few hours, and was bright and pleasant, but nevertheless I be 
came very uneasy about Press. If the old fellow really was sick, 
and if, by any possibility, this detail should result in his death, 
why, then, I felt that his last words would haunt me as long as I 
lived. I waited anxiously for the return of the scouting party, 
and when the whistle of the boat was heard on its arrival at the 
Bluff, went at once to the landing to learn the fate of Press, and 
stood on the bank where the men could be seen as they came 
ashore. Presently here came Press, very much alive, and looking 
fine ! He bore, transfixed on his bayonet, a home-cured ham of an 
Arkansas hog; the tail feathers of a chicken were ostentatiously 
protruding from the mouth of his haversack, and which receptacle 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 215 

was also stuffed well-nigh to bursting with big, toothsome yams. 
And later the fact was developed that his canteen was full of sor 
ghum molasses. As he trudged up the road cut through the bank, 
his step was springy and firm, his face was glowing with health, 
and beaded with perspiration. I felt greatly relieved and happy, 
and, inspired by the joy of the moment, called to him: "Hello, 
Press ! You seem to be all right!" He glanced up at me, and in a 
sort of sheepish manner responded: "Ya-a-ss. As luck would 
have it, the trip greed with me." And from this time on, I had no 
more trouble with old Press. He turned over a new leaf, cut out 
completely his old-time malingering practices, and thenceforward 
was a good, faithful soldier. We were in some close places after 
wards, and he never flinched, but stood up to the work like a man. 
He was mustered out with the rest of us in September, 1865, and 
after some going and coming, settled down in Peoria county, Illi 
nois, where he died March 15, 1914, at the age of nearly eighty- 
five years. 



21 G THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE REGIMENT GOES HOME ON VETERAN FURLOUGH. 
INTERVIEW WITH GEN. W. T. SHERMAN AFTER THE 
WAR. A SHORT TOUR OF SOLDIERING AT CHES 
TER, ILLINOIS. AUGUST, SEPTEMBER, 
OCTOBER, 1864. 

After our return from the Clarendon affair, we remained in 
camp at Devall s Bluff, where nothing more important occurred 
than drilling, reviews, inspections, and the like. The summer was 
rapidly passing away, and still the regiment had not received the 
30-day furlough promised us when we veteranized. Nearly all the 
other regiments in the department that had re-enlisted had re 
ceived theirs, and it looked as if the poor old 61st Illinois had been 
"lost in the shuffle." The boys began to get a little impatient about 
this, and somewhat disposed to grumble, which was only natural. 
But on August 8th the paymaster made us a visit, paid us six 
months pay and our veteran bounty, and then the prospect for the 
furlough began to brighten, and we were assured by our officers 
that we had not much longer to wait. And sure enough, on Aug 
ust 14th we started home. We left the recruits and non-veterans 
at Devall s Bluff, to which we expected to return on the expiration 
of ^ur furlough, but the Fates willed otherwise, as will be seen 
later. When we filed on board the steamboat that August morning, 
the old regiment, as an organization, was leaving Arkansas for 
ever. 

I will say here that I have always regretted, and shall regret as 
long as I live, that after the capture of Vicksburg, the regiment 
happened to get switched off into Arkansas. We thereby were 
taken away from the big armies, and out of the main currents of 
the war, where great deeds were being done, and history made. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 217 

Of course we couldn t help it ; we had no choice ; and, as I have re 
marked before, the common soldier can only do what those in 
authority direct. As connected with this subject, I will here tell 
the story of a little conversation I had with Gen. W. T. Sherman, 
at his office in Washington in February, 1883. I had gone to that 
city on a business matter, and while there met Col. P. B. Plumb, 
then one of the senators from Kansas. In the course of our con 
versation he asked if there were any of the "big bugs" in Washing 
ton I wanted to see, if so, he would be glad to take me around 
and introduce me. I replied that there were only two; that just as 
a matter of curiosity I would like to see President Arthur, but I 
really was very desirous of having a little visit with Gen. Sher 
man. Plumb laughed, said that my desires were modest, and made 
a date with me when he would take me to see the President and 
Gen. Sherman. At the time appointed we went, first to the White 
House, where we met the President. I shook hands with him, and 
after a few commonplace remarks, retired to the background. 
The President and Plumb talked a minute or two about some public 
matter, and then we left. "Now," said Plumb, "we ll go and see 
Uncle Billy ." Sherman was then the General of the Army, and 
had his office, as I now remember, in the War Department build 
ing, near the White House. On entering his office, we found him 
seated at a desk, writing. I had seen him previously several times, 
but had no acquaintance with him whatever. Plumb introduced me 
to him, saying, as he gave my name, that I was one of his "boys." 
The General dropped his pen, shook hands with me heartily, and at 
once began talking. I think he was the most interesting talker I 
ever have known. He had lived a life of incessant activity, had 
done great things, and had mingled with great men, hence he was 
never at a loss for an engaging topic. After a while the mono 
logue lulled, and gave me the opportunity for which I had been 
patiently waiting. "General," I began, "there is an incident con 
nected with your military career during the Civil War that I have 
wanted for some time to speak to you about, and, if agreeable, will 
do so now." "Huh," said he, "what is it?" It was interesting, 



218 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and a little amusing to me at the time, to see the instantaneous 
change that came over him. His face darkened, his eyes con 
tracted, and a scowl appeared on his brow. His appearance and 
manner said, almost as plain as words : "Now here s a smart young 
Aleck, who never had a greater command than a picket post of 
three men, who is going to tell me how he thinks I should have 
fought a battle." Resuming, I said: "Some years ago I read Gen. 
Badeau s Life of Grant, and found published therein a letter from 
Gen. Grant to you, written some time in the fall of 1863, when you 
were marching across the country from Memphis to reinforce 
him at Chattanooga, in which Grant said, in substance, Urge on 
SteeJe the necessity of sending you Kimball s division of the Six 
teenth Corps. *General," said I, "that meant us; it meant me; 
for my regiment was in Kimball s division, with Gen. Steele, in 
Arkansas. Now my point is, I am afraid that you didn t urge 
Steele strongly enough, for we never got to you, and," I continued 
(in a tone of deep and sincere earnestness), "consequently we miss 
ed Missionary Ridge, the campaign of Atlanta, the March to the 
Sea, and the campaign of the Carolinas, and I shall regret it as 
long as I live!" I noted with interest the change in the old f n- 
eral s countenance as I made my little speech. His face lightd r 
his eyes sparkled, the scowl disappeared, and when I concludtu- he 
laughed heartily. "Didn t need you; didn t need you," he said; 
"had men enough, and, let me tell you, Steele needed eVery d d 
man he had." It was quite evident that the General enjoyed the 
recital of my little alleged grievance, and he launched into a most 
interesting account of some incidents connected with the campaigns 
I had mentioned. I became fearful that I was imposing on his good 
nature, and two or three times started to leave. But with a word 
or gesture he would detain me, and keep talking. And when I 
finally did depart, he followed me out into the hall, and laying his 
hand on my shoulder in a most fatherly way, said, "Say! When 
ever you are in Washington, come and see me! Don t be afraid! 
*See "Military History of Ulysses S. Grant," by Adam Badeau, Vol. 1, 
page 456. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 219 

I like to see and talk with you boys!" and with a hearty shake of 
the hand he bade me good-by. He was a grand old man, and we 
common soldiers of the western armies loved him. 

In going home on our veteran furlough, the regiment went by 
steamer down White river, thence up the Mississippi to Cairo, 
where we debarked and took the cars, and went to Springfield, 
Illinois, arriving there August 24th. The Mississippi was low, 
and our progress up the river was very slow. Two or three times 
our boat grounded on bars, and after trying in vain to "spar off," 
had to wait until some other boat came along, and pulled us off by 
main strength. Near Friar s Point, not far below Helena, where 
there was a long, shallow bar, the captain of the steamer took the 
precaution to lighten his boat by landing us all on the west bank 
of thf* river, and we walked along the river s margin for two or 
three miles to the head of the bar, where the boat came to the 
shore, #nd took us on again. Our officers assured us that our 
thirty days furlough would not begin until the day we arrived at 
Springfield, so these delays did not worry us, and we endured them 
with much composure. 

On this entire homeward trip, on account of a matter that was 
r personal, I was in a state of nervous uneasiness and anxiety 
nt. .y all the time. As heretofore stated, just a few days before 
starting home we were paid six months pay, and our veteran 
bounty, the amount I received being $342.70. Several of the re 
cruits and non-veterans whose homes were in my neighborhood 
gave me different amounts that had been paid them, with the re 
quest that I take this money home and hand it to their fathers, or 
other persons they designated. So, when we started, I had the 
most money on my person I ever had had before, and even since. 
The exact amount is now forgotten, but it was something over fif 
teen hundred dollars. Of nights I slept on the hurricane deck of 
the boat, with the other boys, and in the day time was mingling 
constantly with the enlisted men, and with all that money in my 
pocket. Of course, I said nothing about it, and had cautioned the 
boys who trusted me with this business also to say nothing, but 



220 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

whether they had all complied with my request I didn t know. I 
kept the money (which, except a little postal currency, was all in 
greenbacks) in my inside jacket pocket during the day time, didn t 
take off my trousers at night, and then stowed the bills on my per 
son at a place well, if a prowling hand had invaded the locality, it 
would have waked me quick ! But I finally got home with all the 
money intact, duly paid the trust funds over to the proper parties, 
and then felt greatly relieved. 

When the regiment arrived at Springfield we stored our 
muskets and accouterments in a public building, and then dis 
persed for our respective homes. I arrived at the Stillwell home 
the following day, August 25th, and received a hearty welcome. 

But the admission must be made that I didn t enjoy this fur 
lough near as much as the individual one of the preceding autumn, 
for reasons I will state. You see,. we were all at home now, that is, 
the veterans, and there were several hundred of us, and it seemed 
as if the citizens thought that they must do everything in their 
power to show how much they appreciated us. So there was some 
thing going on nearly all the time; parties, oyster suppers, and 
gatherings of all sorts. There was a big picnic affair held in the 
woods at the Sansom Spring which was attended by a crowd of 
people. A lawyer came down from Jerseyville and made us a 
long speech on this occasion, in which he refreshed our recollection 
as to our brave deeds and patriotic services in battle, and in camp 
and field generally, which was doubtless very fine. It is true, I 
spent several very happy days at home, with my own folks, but 
they were frequently broken in on by the neighbors, coming and 
p-oing, who wanted to see and talk with "Leander." And the girls ! 
bless their hearts! They were fairly ready to just fall down and 
worship us. But I was young, awkward, and exceedingly bashful, 
and can now see clearly that I didn t respond to their friendly at 
tentions with the same alacrity and heartiness that would have ob 
tained had I been, say, ten years older. The French have a prov 
erb with a world of meaning in it, something like this : "If youth 
but knew if old age could !" But probably it is best as it is. 





Lieut. Colonel, 61st Illinois Infantry. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 221 

When home on our veteran furlough a sad event occurred 
which directly affected the regiment, and which it can be truly 
said every member thereof sincerely deplored. This was the death 
of Lieut. Col. Simon P. Ohr. He never was a strong man, physi 
cally, and the hardships and exposures incident to army life were 
really the cause of his death. He died at his home, in Carrollton, 
Illinois, of a bronchial affection, on September 14th, 1864. He was 
a man of temperate habits, honest and upright, and a sterling 
patriot. As an officer, he was kind, careful as to the wants and 
necessities of his men, and in battle, cool, clear-headed, and brave. 
In due course of time Maj. Daniel Grass was appointed to the of 
fice of Lieutenant-Colonel, to fill the vacancy thus created by the 
lamented death of Col. Ohr. 

The regiment rendezvoused at Springfield on September 26th, 
and left on the next day, on the cars, went to St. Louis, and were 
quartered in the Hickory Street Barracks, in the city. Another 
"Price Raid" was now on. Only a few days previously Gen. Sterling 
Price with a strong force, including, of course, Shelby s cavalry, 
entered southeast Missouri, and the day we arrived at St. Louis he 
showed up at Pilot Knob, only about 85 miles south of the city, 
where some sharp fighting occurred. There was now the biggest 
kind of a "scare" prevailing in St. Louis, and, judging from all the 
talk one heard, we were liable to hear the thunder of Price s can 
non on the outskirts of St. Louis any day. We had been at Hickory 
Street Baracks only a day or two, when my company, and com 
panies B and G, were detached from the regiment, embarked on a 
steamboat, and went down the Mississippi to the town of Chester, 
Illinois, which is situated on the Mississippi, at the mouth of the 
Kaskaskia river. We were sent here for the purpose, as we under 
stood at the time, of guarding the crossing of the Mississippi at 
this place, and to prevent any predatory Confederate raid in that 
vicinity. We were quartered in some large vacant warehouses near 
the river, and had no guard duty to perform except a guard at the 
ferry landing, and a small one over our commissary stores. Alto 
gether, it was the "softest" piece of soldiering that fell to my lot 



222 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

during all my service. We had roofs over our heads and slept at 
night where it was dry and warm, it was ideal autumn weather, and 
we just idled around, careless, contented, and happy. One lovely 
October day Bill Banfield and I in some way got a skiff, and early 
in the morning rowed over the river to the Missouri side, and spent 
the day there, strolling about in the woods. The country was wild 
and rough, and practically in a state of nature. We confined our 
rambling to the river bottom, which was broad and extensive, and 
densely covered with a primeval forest. Some of the trees, espe 
cially the sycamores and the cottonwoods, were of giant size. And 
the woods abounded in nuts and wild fruits ; hickory nuts, walnuts, 
pecans, pawpaws, big wild grapes, and persimmons, but the latter 
were not yet ripe. This locality was in Perry county, Missouri, and 
it seemed to be destitute of inhabitants; we saw two or three log 
cabins, but they were old, decayed, and deserted. We had brought 
some bacon and hardtack with us in our haversacks, and at noon 
built a fire and had an army dinner, with nuts and fruit for dessert. 
We got back to Chester about sundown, having had a most inter 
esting and delightful time. 

There was another little incident that happened while we were 
at Chester, which I have always remembered with pleasure. Be 
tween companies D and G of our regiment was a strong bond of 
friendship. Many of the boys of the two companies had lived in 
the same neighborhood at home, and were acquainted with each 
other before enlisting. The first sergeant of G was Pressley T. 
Rice, a grown man, and some five or six years my senior. He came 
to me one day soon after our arrival at Chester, and in his peculiar 
nasal tone said: "Stillwell, some of my boys think that when we are 
soldiering here in God s Country, they ought to have soft bread to 
eat. If D feels the same, let s go down to the mill, and buy a bar 
rel of flour for each company, and give the boys a rest on hardtack." 
I heartily assented, but asked what should we do about paying for 
it, as the boys were now pretty generally strapped. Press respond 
ed that we d get the flour "on tick," and settle for it at our next pay 
day. To my inquiry if we should take Company B in on the deal 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 223 

(the other company with us at Chester), Press dryly responded that 
B could root for themselves; that this was a "cahootnership" of D 
and G only. Without further ceremony we went to the mill, which 
was a fair-sized concern, and situated, as I now remember, in the 
lower part of the town, and near the river bank. We found one 
of the proprietors, and Press made known to him our business, in 
words substantially the same as he had used in broaching the mat 
ter to me, with some little additional explanation. He told the mil 
ler that the only bread we had was hardtack, that the boys accepted 
that cheerfully when we were down South, but that here in "God s 
Country," in our home State of Illinois, they thought they were 
entitled t,o "soft bread," so we had come to him to buy two barrels 
of flour ; that the boys had not the money now to pay for it, but at 
our next pay day they would, and we would see to it that the money 
should be sent him. While thus talking, the miller looked at us 
with "narrowed eyes," and, as it seemed to me, didn t feel a bit de 
lighted with the proposition. But maybe he thought that if he 
didn t sell us the flour, we might take it anyhow, so, making a vir 
tue of necessity, he said he would let us have it, the price of the 
two barrels being, as I now remember, seven dollars. I produced my 
little memorandum book, and requested him to write the name and 
address of his firm therein, which he did, in pen and ink, and it is 
there yet, in that same little old book, now lying open before me, 
and reads as follows: 

"H. C. Cole & Co., 

Chester, 111." 

Well, he sent us the flour, and D and G had soft bread the balance 
of the time we were at Chester. 

I will now anticipate a few months, in order to finish the ac 
count of this incident. The spring of 1865 found the regiment at 
Franklin, Tennessee, and while there the paymaster made us a 
welcome visit. I then went to Press Rice, and suggested to him 
that the time had now come for us to pay the Chester miller for his 
flour, and he said he thought so too. We sat down at the foot of a 
| tree and made out a list of all the boys of our respective companies 



224 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

who, at Chester, helped eat the bread made from the flour, and who 
were yet with us, and then assessed each one with the proper sum 
he should contribute, in order to raise the entire amount required. 
Of course the boys pa. d it cheerfully. Press turned over to me the 
proportionate sum of his company, and requested me to attend to 
the rest of the business, which I did. I wrote a letter to the firm of 
H. C. Cole & Co., calling their attention to the fact of our purchase 
from them of two barrels of flour in October of the previous year, 
and then went on to say that several of the boys who had taken 
part in eating the bread made from this flour had since then been 
killed in battle, or died of diseases incident to a soldier s life, but 
there were yet enough of us left to pay them for their flour, and 
that I here inclosed the proper sum. (I have forgotten in just what 
manner or form it was sent, but think it was by express.) In due 
course of time I received an answer, acknowledging receipt of the 
money, written in a very kind and complimentary vein. After 
heartily thanking us for the payment, the letter went on to state 
that in all the business dealings of H. C. Cole & Co. with Union 
soldiers the firm had been treated with fairness and remarkable 
honesty, and they sincerely appreciated it. 

Many years later out in Kansas I met a man who had lived in 
Chester during the war, and told him the foregoing little story. 
He said he knew the milling firm of Cole & Co. quite well, and that 
during the war they were most intense and bitter Copperheads, and 
had no use whatever for "Lincoln hirelings," as Union soldiers were 
sometimes called by the "Butternut" element. My informant was 
a respectable, truthful man, so it is probable that his statement 
was correct. It served to throw some light on the grim conduct 
of the miller with whom Press and I dealt. But they treated us 
well, and if they were of the type above indicated, it is hoped that 
the little experience with us may have caused them to have a some 
what kindlier feeling for Union soldiers than the one they may 
have previously entertained. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 225 



CHAPTER XIX. 

EXPEDITION TO NORTH MISSOURI. BACK IN TENNESSEE 

ONCE MORE. MURFREESBORO. OCTOBER AND 

NOVEMBER, 1864. 

On October 14th we left Chester on the steamer "A. Jacobs," 
and went to St. Louis, where we arrived on the 15th, and marched 
out to Laclede Station, about six miles from St. Louis, on the Pa 
cific railroad, where we found the balance of the regiment. There 
was a railroad bridge at this place, over a small stream, and I sup 
pose that during the scare at St. Louis it was deemed prudent to 
have a force here to guard the bridge. On October 19th the regi 
ment left Laclede, and went by rail on the North Missouri railroad, 
to Mexico, in Audrain county, Missouri, about 110 miles northwest 
of St, Louis. Here we reported to Col. Samuel A. Holmes, Colonel 
of the 40th Missouri Infantry. We left Mexico October 21st and 
marched northward 25 miles to Paris, the county seat of Monroe 
county. There was a body of irregular Confederate cavalry, sup 
posed to be about 500 strong, under the command of a Col. Mc- 
Daniel, operating in this region, and carrying on a sort of predatory 
and uncivilized warfare. We learned that it was our business up 
here to bring this gang to battle, and destroy them if possible, or, 
failing in that, to drive them out of the country. Our force con 
sisted of about 70(* infantry, the 40th Missouri and the 61st 
Illinois, and a detachment of about 300 cavalry, whose state and 
regimental number I have forgotten. Our cavalry caught up with 
the Confederates at Paris, and had a little skirmish with them, but 
before the infantry could get on the ground the enemy lit out as 
fast as their horses could carry them. We lay that night at Paris, 
and the next day (the 22nd) marched to the little town of Florida, 
where we bivouacked for the night. It was a small place, situated 
on a high, timbered ridge, between the main Salt river and one of 



226 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

its forks. With the exception that it was not a county seat, it was 
practically a counterpart of the little village of Springfield, Arkan 
sas, hereinbefore mentioned. It had only one street of any conse 
quence, and all up and down this street, in several places right in 
the middle thereof, were grand, imposing native trees, such as oaks 
and hickories. But the place was now totally deserted, and looked 
lonesome and desolate. I ascertained several years later that it 
was the birthplace of Samuel L. Clemens, the author, better 
known under his pen-name, "Mark Twain." It is also an in 
teresting circumstance that the first military operation conducted 
by Gen. U. S. Grant was a movement in the summer of 1861 on 
this little village of Florida, with the intention and expectation of 
giving battle to a Confederate force in camp near the town. 
(Grant s Memoirs, 1st Edition, Vol. 1, pp. 248 et seq.) 

The next day (the 23rd) we turned south, and marched to the 
little town of Santa Fe, and the next day thereafter back to Paris, 
where we remained a day. On the 26th we went to Middle Grove, 
and on the following day again reached the railroad at Allen, some 
distance northwest of Mexico, where we first started out. It 
would seem that this little station of Allen has, since the war, dis 
appeared from the map, at least, I can t find it. On this ex- 
pedjtion the infantry never caught a glimpse of an armed Confed 
erate, but the object of the movement was accomplished. We kept 
after our foes so persistently that they left that locality, crossed 
the Missouri river, joined Price s army, and with it left the State. At 
this time the section of country over which we marched in the pur 
suit of McDaniel s command is now all gridironed by railroads, but 
in 1864 there were only two, the North Missouri, running north 
west from St. Louis to Macon, and the Hannibal and St. Joe, con 
necting those two places and extending from the Mississippi river 
on the east to the Missouri river on the west. We always remem 
bered this scout up in north Missouri with feelings of comfort and 
satisfaction. Compared with some of our Arkansas marches, it 
was just a pleasure excursion. The roads were in good condition, 
and the weather was fine; .ideal Indian Summer days. And in 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 22? 

the fruit and vegetable line we lived high. The country through 
which we passed abounded in the finest of winter apples, Little 
Romanites and Jennetings being the chief varieties. The farmers 
had gathered and piled them in the orchards in conical heaps and 
covered them with straw and earth sufficient to keep them from 
freezing. We soon learned what those little earth mounds signi 
fied, and, as a matter of course, confiscated the apples instanter. 
And the country was full of potatoes, cabbages, and turnips, on 
which we foraged with great liberality. If any apology for this 
line of conduct should be thought proper, it may be sai d that many 
of the farms were at this time abandoned, the owners having fled 
to the garrisoned towns to escape the Confederate raiders ; further, 
if we hadn t taken this stuff our adversaries would, if by chance 
they happened again to infest that locality. Anyhow, a hungry 
soldier is not troubled, in such matters, by nice ethical distinctions. 
We remained at Allen on the 28th, and until the evening of the fol 
lowing day, when we left there on the cars for St. Louis. But 
sometime near midnight the train stopped at Montgomery City, 
about midway between Allen and St. Louis, we were roused up, and 
ordered to get off and form in line, which we did. Our officers 
then proceeded to give us careful instructions, to the effect that a 
band of Confederate cavalry was believed to be at Danville, out in 
the country a few miles south, and that we were going there to 
surprise and capture this party, if possible. We were strictly en 
joined to refrain from talking and singing, and to remain ab 
solutely silent in ranks. We then fell into column and marched for 
Danville, where we arrived an hour or so before dawn. But our 
birds (if there when we started from Montgomery) had flown 
there were no Confederates there. A party of guerrillas had been 
in the town about two weeks before, who had murdered five or six 
unarmed citizens, (including one little boy about eight or ten years 
old,) and it was believed when we started to march out here 
that this gang, or some of them, had returned. The party that 
had previously raided Danville were under the command of one 
Bill Anderson, a blood-thirsty desperado, with no more humanity 
about him than an Apache Indian. He was finally killed in battle 



228 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

with some Union troops about the last of October, 1864. When 
killed there was found on his person a commission as Colonel in the 
Confederate army, signed by Jefferson Davis, and the brow-band 
of his horse s bridle was decorated with two human scalps. (See 
"The Civil War on the Border," by Wiley Britton, Vol. 2, p. 546.) 
He was of that class of men of which Quantrell and the James 
and the Younger boys were fitting types, and who were a disgrace 
to mankind. 

Sometime during the day (October 30th) we marched back 
to Montgomery City, got on the cars, and again started for St. 
Louis, where we arrived the next day, and marched out to old Ben- 
ton Barracks, where we took up our quarters for the time being. 
So we were once more " tenting on the old camp ground," after an 
absence of nearly three years. But the place did not look as it 
did before. It seemed old and dilapidated and there were only a 
few troops there. As compared with the active, stirring con 
ditions that obtained there in February and March, 1862, it now 
looked indescribably dejected and forlorn. But our stay here this 
time was short. We left on November 5th, marched into St. Louis, 
and down to the wharf, where we embarked on the steamer "David 
Tatum," and started up the Mississippi. We were puzzled for a 
while as to what this meant, but soon found out. We were told 
that the regiment was being sent home to vote at the ensuing 
presidential election, which would occur on November 8th, that we 
would take the cars at Alton and go to Springfield, and from there 
to our respective homes. We surely were glad that we were going 
to be granted this favor. The most of the States had enacted laws 
authorizing their soldiers to vote in the field, but the Illinois 
legislature since 1862 had been Democratic in politics, and that 
party at that time in our State was not favorably disposed to such a 
measure. Consequently the legislature in office had failed to pass 
any law authorizing their soldier constituents to vote when away 
from home. We arrived at Alton about 9 o clock on the evening of 
the 5th, and found a train waiting us (box cars ), which we at once 
climbed on. We had just got our guns and other things stowed away 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 229 

in corners, and were proceeding to make ourselves comfortable for a 
night ride to Springfield, when Lt. Wallace came down from the of 
ficers caboose, and stopped at the Co. D car. "Boys," he called, "get 
out, and fall in line here by the track. The order to go to Springfield 
has been countermanded by telegraphic dispatch and we are ordered 
back to St. Louis." "What! What s that?" we exclaimed, in as 
tonishment. "It s so," said Wallace, in a tone of deep regret; "get 
out." "Well, don t that beat hell !" was the next remark of about 
a dozen of us. But orders are orders, and there was nothing to 
do but obey. The curses of the disappointed soldiers in thus hav 
ing this cup of satisfaction dashed from their lips were "not loud, 
but deep." But we all swung down from the cars, fell in, and 
marched back to and on board the "David Tatum," and were back 
at the wharf in St. Louis by next morning. We stacked arms on 
the levee, and the next morning, November 7th, left St. Louis on 
the steamer "Jennie Brown," headed down stream. So here we 
were again on the broad Mississippi, duplicating our beginning of 
March, 1862, and once more bound for "Dixie s Land." By this 
time we had become philosophical and indifferent in regard to the 
ups and downs of our career. If we had been ordered some night 
to be ready the next morning to start to California or Maine, the 
order would have been treated with absolute composure, and af 
ter a few careless or sarcastic remarks, we would have turned over 
and been asleep again in about a minute. We had made up our 
minds that we were out to see the war through, and were deter 
mined in our conviction that we were going to win in the end. 

Election day, November 8th, was densely foggy, so much so 
that the captain of our steamboat thought it not prudent to pro 
ceed, so the boat tied up that day and night at the little town of 
Wittenburg, on the Missouri shore. Mainly to pass away the time, 
the officers concluded to hold a "mock" regimental presidential 
election. The most of the line officers were Democrats, and were 
supporting Gen. McClellan for President in opposition to Mr. Lin 
coln, and they were quite confident that a majority of the regiment 
favored McClellan, so they were much in favor of holding an 



230 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

election. An election board was chosen, fairly divided between the 
supporters of the respective candidates, and the voting began. As 
our votes wouldn t count in the official result, every soldier, regard 
less of age, was allowed to vote. But at this time I was a sure- 
enough legal voter, having attained my twenty-first year on the 
16th of the preceding September. You may rest assured that I 
voted for "Uncle Abe" good and strong. When the votes were 
counted, to the astonishment of nearly all of us, Mr. Lincoln was 
found to have sixteen majority. As the regiment was largely 
Democratic when it left Illinois in February, 1862, this vote show 
ed that the political opinions of the rank and file had, in the mean 
time, undergone a decided change. 

We left Wittenburg on the forenoon of the 9th, but owing to 
the foggy conditions our progress was very slow. We reached 
Cairo on the 10th, and from there proceeded up the Ohio, and on 
the llth arrived at Paducah, Kentucky, where we debarked, and 
went into camp. We remained here nearly two weeks, doing noth 
ing but the ordinary routine of camp duty, so life here was quite 
uneventful. Paducah was then an old, sleepy, dilapidated, and 
badly decayed river town, with a population at the outbreak of the 
war of about four thousand. After our brief stay here terminated, 
I never was at the place again until in October, 1914, when I was 
there for about a day, which was devoted to rambling about the 
town. The flight of fifty years had made great changes in Pa 
ducah. It now had a population of about twenty-five thousand, four 
different lines of railroad, street cars, electric lights, and a full 
supply generally of all the other so-called "modern conveniences." 
On this occasion I hunted faithfully and persistently for the old 
camp ground of the regiment in 1864, but couldn t find it, nor even 
any locality that looked like it. 

On the evening of November 24th the regiment left Paducah 
on the little stern-wheel steamboat "Rosa D," which steamed up 
the Ohio river as far as the mouth of the Cumberland, there 
turned to the right, and proceeded to ascend that stream. That 
move told the story of our probable destination, and indicated to 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 231 

us that we were doubtless on our way to Nashville to join the 
army of Gen. Thomas. There was another boat that left Paducah 
the same time we did, the "Masonic Gem," a stern-wheeler about 
the same size of our boat. It was also transporting a regiment of 
soldiers, whose State and regimental number I do not now remem 
ber. The captains of the two boats, for some reason or other, 
lashed their vessels together, side by side, and in this manner we 
made the greater part of the trip. In going up the Cumberland the 
regiment lost two men by drowning; Henry Miner, of Co. D, and 
Perry Crochett, of Co. G. There was something of a mystery in 
regard to the death of Miner. He was last seen about nine o clock 
one evening on the lower deck of the boat, close to where the two 
boats were lashed together. It was supposed that in some manner 
he missed his footing and fell between the boats, and was at once 
sucked under by the current and drowned. His cap was discovered 
next morning on the deck near the place where he was last ob 
served, but no other vestige of him was ever found. The other sol 
dier, Perry Crochett, stumbled and fell into the river in the day 
time, from the after part of the hurricane deck of the boat. He 
was perhaps stunned by the fall, for he just sank like a stone. 
The boats stopped, and a skiff was at once lowered and manned, and 
rowed out to the spot where he disappeared, and which lingered 
around there a short time, in the hope that he might come to the 
surface. His little old wool hat was floating around on the tops 
of the waves, but poor Perry was never seen again. There was 
nothing that could be done, so the skiff came back to the boat, was 
hoisted aboard, the bells rang the signal "go ahead," and we went 
on. Miner and Crochett were both young men, about my own age, 
and had been good and brave soldiers. Somehow it looked hard 
and cruel that after over three years faithful service they were 
fated at last to lose their lives by drowning in the cold waters of 
the Cumberland, and be devoured by catfish and snapping turtles, 
but such are among the chances in the life of a soldier. 

On our way up the Cumberland we passed the historic Fort 
Donelson, where Gen. Grant in February, 1862, gained his first 



232 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

great victory. There was, at that time, de.sperate and bloody 
fighting at and near the gray earthen walls of the old fort. Now 
there was only a small garrison of Union troops here, and with 
that exception, the place looked about as quiet and peaceful as some 
obscure country graveyard. 

We arrived at Nashville after dark on the evening of the 27th, 
remained on the boat that night, debarked the next morning, and 
in the course of that day (the 28th) took the cars on what was 
then known as the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad, and went 
to Murfreesboro, about thirty miles southeast of Nashville. Here 
we went into camp inside of Fortress Rosecrans, a strong and ex 
tensive earthwork built under the direction of Gen. Rosecrans 
soon after the battle of Murfreesboro, in January, 1863. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE AFFAIR AT OVERALL S CREEK. MURFREESBORO.- 

DECEMBER, 1864. 

The invasion of Tennessee by the Confederate army under the 
command of Gen. J. B. Hood was now on, and only a day or two 
after our arrival at Murfreesboro we began to hear the sullen, 
deep-toned booming of artillery towards the west, and later north 
west in the direction of Nashville. And this continued, with more 
or less frequency, until the termination, on December 16th, of the 
battle -of Nashville, which resulted in the defeat of the Confed 
erates, and their retreat from the State. About December 3rd, 
the Confederate cavalry, under the command of our old acquaint 
ance, Gen. N. B. Forrest, swung in between Nashville and Mur 
freesboro, tore up the railroad, and cut us off from Nashville for 
about two weeks. The Union forces at Murfreesboro at this time 
consisted of about 6,000 men, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, 
(but principally infantry,) under the command of Gen L. H. Rous 
seau. 

December 4th, 1864, was a pleasant, beautiful day at old Mur 
freesboro. The sun was shining bright and warm, the air was still, 
and the weather conditions were like those at home during Indian 
summer in October. Along about the middle of the afternoon, 
without a single note of preliminary warning, suddenly came the 
heavy "boom" of cannon close at hand, in a northwesterly direction. 
We at once ran up on the ramparts, and looking up the railroad 
towards Nashville, could plainly see the blue rings of powder-smoke 
curling upwards above the trees. But we didn t look long. 
Directly after we heard the first report, the bugles in our camp and 
others began sounding "Fall in !" We hastily formed in line, and 
in a very short time the 61st Illinois and two other regiments of 
infantry, the 8th Minnesota and the 174th Ohio, with a section of 



234 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

artillery, all under the command of Gen. R. H. Milroy, filed out of 
Fortress Rosecrans, and proceeded in the direction of this cannon 
ading. About four miles out from Murfreesboro we came to the 
scene of the trouble. The Confederates had opened with their 
artillery on one of our railroad block -houses, and were trying to de 
molish or capture it. The 13th Indiana Cavalry had preceded us 
to the spot, and were skirmishing with the enemy. Our regiment 
formed in line on the right of the pike, the Minnesota regiment to 
our righ;t, and the Ohio regiment on the left, while our artillery 
took a position on some higher ground near the pike, and began 
exchanging shots with that of the enemy. The position of our 
regiment was on the hither slope of a somewhat high ridge, in the 
woods, with a small stream called Overall s creek running parallel 
to our front. We were standing here at ease, doing nothing, and 
I slipped up on the crest of the ridge, "to see what I could see." 
The ground on the opposite side of the creek was lower than ours, 
and was open, except a growth of rank grass and weeds. And I 
could plainly see the skirmishers of the enemy, in butternut cloth 
ing, skulking in the grass and weeds, and occasionally firing in our 
direction. They looked real tempting, so I hurried back to the 
regiment, and going to Capt. Keeley, told him that the Confederate 
skirmishers were just across the creek, in plain sight, and asked 
him if I couldn t slip down the brow of the ridge and take a few 
shots at them. He looked at me kind of queerly, and said: "You 
stay right where you are, and tend to your own business. You ll 
have plenty of shooting before long." I felt a little bit hurt at his 
remark, but made no reply, and resumed my place in the ranks. 
But he afterwards made me a sort of apology for his brusque re 
proof, saying he had no desire to see me perhaps throw my life 
away in a performance not within the scope of my proper and nec 
essary duty. And he was right, too, in his prediction, that there 
would soon be "plenty of shooting." I had just taken my place in 
the ranks when a mounted staff officer came galloping up, and ac 
costing a little group of our line officers, asked, with a strong Ger 
man accent, "Iss ziss ze 61st Illinois?" and on being told that it 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 235 

was, next inquired for Col. Grass, who was pointed out to him. 
He rode to the Colonel, who was near at hand, saluted him, and said, 
"Col. Grass, ze Sheneral sends his compliments wiss ze order zat 
you immediately deploy your regiment as skirmishers, and forth 
with advance on ze enemy, right in your front!" The recruits 
and non-veterans of the regiment being yet in Arkansas, its 
present effective strength hardly exceeded three hundred men, so 
there was just about enough of us to make a sufficient skirmish line, 
on this occasion, for the balance of the command. In obedience to 
the aforesaid order the regiment was promptly deployed as skir 
mishers, and the line advanced over the crest of the ridge in our 
front, and down the slope on the opposite side. At the bank of the 
creek a little incident befell me, which serves to show how a very 
trifling thing may play an important part in one s fate. I happen 
ed to reach the creek at a point opposite a somewhat deep pool. 
The water was clear and cold, and I disliked the idea of having wet 
feet on the skirmish line, and looked around for a place where it 
was possible to cross dry-shod. A rod or two above me the stream 
was narrow, and where it could be jumped, so I started in a run 
for that place. The creek bank on my side was of yellow clay, 
high and perpendicular, while on the other margin the bank was 
quite low, and the ground adjacent sloped upward gently and grad 
ually. While running along the edge of the stream to the fording 
place, one of my feet caught on the end of a dead root projecting 
from the lower edge of the bank, and I pitched forward, and nearly 
fell. At the very instant of my stumble, "thud" into the clay 
bank right opposite where I would have been, if standing, went a 
bullet fired by a Confederate skirmisher. He probably had taken 
deliberate aim at me, and on seeing me almost fall headlong, doubt 
less gave himself credit for another Yankee sent to "the happy 
hunting grounds." It is quite likely that owing to the existence of 
that old dead root, and my lucky stumble thereon, I am now here 
telling the story of this skirmish. By this time it was sunset, and 
darkness was approaching, but we went on. The Confederate 
skirmishers retired, but we soon developed their main line on some 



236 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

high ground near the edge of the woods, and then we had to stop. 
We lay down, loaded and fired in that position, and nearly all of 
the enemy s balls passed over our heads. Presently it grew quite 
dark, and all we had to aim at was the long horizontal sheet of 
red flame that streamed from the muskets of the Confederates. In 
the mean time the artillery of both parties was still engaged in 
their duel, and their balls and shells went screaming over our 
heads. Occasionally a Confederate shell would explode right over 
us, and looked interesting, but did no harm. While all this firing 
was at its liveliest, I heard close by the heavy "thud" that a bullet 
makes in striking a human body, followed immediately by a sharp 
cry of "Oh !" which meant that someone had been hit. It proved 
to be Lieutenant Elijah Corrington, of Co. F. He was struck by 
the ball in the region of the heart, and expired almost instantly. 
He was a good man, and a brave soldier, and his death was sincere 
ly mourned. 

The aifair was terminated by the 174th Ohio on our left get 
ting around on the enemy s right flank, where it poured in a de 
structive volley, and the Confederates retired. We followed a 
short distance, but neither saw nor heard anything more of the 
enemy, so we finally retired also. We recrossed the creek, built 
some big fires out of dry chestnut rails, which we left burning, in 
order, I suppose, to make our foes believe we were still there, and 
then marched to Murfreesboro, where we arrived about midnight. 

On the two following days, December 5 and 6, the Confed 
erates showed themselves to the west of us, and demonstrated most 
ostentatiously against Murfreesboro. From where we stood on 
the ramparts of Fortress Rosecrans w r e could plainly see their col 
umns in motion, with flags flying, circling around us as if looking 
for a good opening. They were beyond the range of musketry, 
but our bag guns in the fortress opened on them and gave them 
a most noisy cannonading, but what the effect was I don t know, 
probably not much. In the battles of the Civil War artillery play 
ing on infantry at short range with grape and canister did fright 
ful execution, of which I saw plenty of evidence at Shiloh ; but at a 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 237 

distance, and firing with solid shot or shell, it simply made a big 
noise, and if it killed anybody, it was more an accident than other 
wise. 

Beginning about December 5th, and continuing for several 
days thereafter, we turned out at four o clock every morning, 
fully armed, and manned the trenches in the rear of the breast 
works, and remained there till after sunrise. It was a cold, chilly 
business, standing two or three hours in those damp trenches, with 
an empty stomach, waiting for an apprehended attack, which, 
however, was never made. For my part, I felt like I did when be 
hind our big works in the rear of Vicksburg, and sincerely hoped 
that the other fellows would make an attempt to storm our de 
fenses, and I think the other boys felt the same way. We would 
have shot them down just like pigeons, and the artillery in the 
corner bastions, charged with grape and canister, would have 
played its part too. But the Confederates had no intention of 
making any attempt of this nature. The Official Records of the 
Rebellion hereinbefore mentioned contain the correspondence be- 
between Hood and Forrest concerning this movement on Murfrees- 
boro, and which clearly discloses their schemes. The plan was 
simply to "scare" Rousseau out of Murfreesboro, and cause him to 
retreat in a northerly direction towards the town of Lebanon, and 
then, having gotten him out of his hole, to surround him in the 
open with their large force of cavalry, well supported by infantry, 
and capture all his command. But Rosseau didn t "scare" worth 
a cent, as will appear later. 



238 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



THE BATTLE OF WILKINSON S PIKE. DECEMBER 7, 1864. 

Early in the morning of December 7th, General Rousseau 
started out General Milroy with seven, regiments of infantry, 
(which included our regiment,) a battery of artillery, and a small 
detachment of cavalry, to find out what Gen. Forrest wanted. 
Our entire force consisted of a trifle over thirty-three hundred 
men. We first marched south from Murfreesboro, on the Salem 
pike, but gradually executed a right wheel, crossed Stone river, 
and worked to the northwest. We soon jumped up the Confed 
erate cavalry vedettes, and a portion of the 61st was thrown out 
as skirmishers, and acted with our cavalry in driving back these 
scattered outposts of the enemy. Finally, about noon, we ran up 
against the main line of the Confederates, on the Wilkinson pike, 
protected by slight and hastily constructed breastworks, made of 
dirt, rails, and logs. Their artillery opened on us before we 
came in musket range, and we halted and formed in line of battle 
in some tall woods, with an open field in front. We were stand 
ing here in line when Gen. Milroy with some of his staff rode up 
rigiht in front of our regiment, and stopped on a little elevated 
piece of ground. Then the old man took out his field-glass, and 
proceeded carefully and deliberately to scrutinize the country be 
fore him. My place in the line was only two or three rods from 
him, and I watched his proceedings with the deepest interest. 
He would look a while at the front, then sweep his glass to the 
right and scan that locality, then to the left and examine that 
region. While he was thus engaged, we all remained profoundly si 
lent, his staff sat near him on their horses, also saying nothing. His 
survey of the country before him could not have lasted more than 
five minutes, but to me it seemed terribly long. At last he shut 
up his glass, returned it to its case, gave his horse a sort of a 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 239 

"haw" pull, and said something in a low tone to the different 
members of his staff, who forthwith dispersed in a gallop up and 
down our line. "Now," thought I, "something is going to hap 
pen." One of the staff stopped and said something to Col. Grass, 
and then came the command: "Attention, battalion! Shoulder 
arms! Face to the rear! Battalion, about face! Right shoulder 
shift arms ! Forward, guide center, march !" And that, I thought, 
told the story. The other fellows were too many for us, and we 
were going to back out. They probably had someone up a tree, 
watching us, for we had hardly begun our rearward movement 
before their artillery opened on us furiously, and the cannon balls 
went crashing through the tree tops, and bringing down the limbs 
in profusion. But, as usual, the artillery hurt nobody, and we 
went on, quietly and in perfect order. After retiring through 
the woods for some distance, we gradually changed the direction 
of our march to the left, the result being that we executed an 
extensive left wheel, and pivoted towards the left flank of the 
enemy. Here our entire regiment was deployed as skirmishers, 
and we again advanced. We later learned that the enemy had 
made all their preparations to meet us at the point where we 
first encountered their line, so they were not fully prepared for 
this new movement. 

Gen. Milroy, in his official report of the battle, in describing 
this advance, says: 

"The Sixty-first Illinois was deployed as skirmishers in 
front of the first line, [and the] line advanced upon the enemy 
through the brush, cedars, rocks, and logs, under a heavy fire of 
artillery. * * * * Skirmishing with small arms began soon 
after commenqing my advance, but my skirmish line advanced, 
rapidly, bravely, and in splendid order, considering the nature 
of the ground, driving the rebels before them for about a mile," 
[when their main line was struck]. See Serial number 93, Of 
ficial Records of the War of the Rebellion, p. 618. 

As we were advancing in this skirmish line across an old 
cotton field, the Confederates ran forward a section of artillery, 
placed it on some rising ground and opened on us a rapid fire. 



240 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

The shot and shell fell all around us, throwing up showers of red 
dirt, but doing no harm. While these guns were thus engaged, I 
noticed a large, fine-looking man, mounted on an iron gray horse, 
near one of the pieces, and who was intently watching our ad 
vance across the field. He evidently was a Confederate officer, 
and I thought possibly of high rank; so, taking careful aim each 
time, I gave him two shots from "Trimthicket," (the pet name 
of my old musket,) but without effect, so far as was perceivable. 
After each shot he remained impassive in his saddle, and soon 
after galloped away. After the battle I talked about the incident 
with some of the Confederates we captured, and they told me 
that this officer was Gen. Forrest himself. He was probably too 
far away when I fired at him for effective work, but he doubtless 
heard the bullets and perhaps concluded that he had better not 
expose himself unnecessarily. 

Our skirmish line continued to advance across the cotton 
field before mentioned. In our front was a dense thicket of 
small cedars occupied by the Confederate skirmishers, and as we 
approached these woods our progress was somewhat slow. I 
happened to notice in the edge of the thicket, and only a few rods 
in my front, a big, heavy log, which was lying parallel to our 
line, and would afford splendid protection. Thereupon I made a 
rush, and dropped behind this log. It was apparently a rail-cut, 
and had been left lying on the ground. A little fellow of Co. H, 
named John Fox, a year or two my junior, saw me rush for this 
log, he followed me, and dropped down behind it also. He had 
hardly done this when he quickly called to me "Look out, Still- 
well! You ll get shot!" I hardly understood just what caused 
his remark, but instinctively ducked behind the log, and at that 
instant "whis-sh" went a bullet from the front through the upper 
bark of the log, right opposite where my breast was a second or 
two before, scattering worm-dust and fragments of bark over my 
neck and shoulders. "I seed him a-takin aim," dryly remarked 
little Fox. "Where is he?" I quickly inquired. "Right yander," 
answered Fox, indicating the place by pointing. I looked and saw 
the fellow he was a grown man, in a faded gray uniform, but 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 241 

before I could complete my hasty preparations to return his com 
pliment he disappeared in the jungle of cedar. 

An incident will now be described, the result of which was 
very mortifying to me at the time, and which, to this day, I have 
never been able to understand, or account for. We had passed 
through the cedar woods before mentioned, and entered another 
old cotton field. And right in the hither edge of that field we 
came plump on a Confederate cavalry vedette, seated on his horse. 
The man had possibly been on duty all the previous night, and per 
haps was now dozing in his saddle, or he never would have stayed 
for us to slip up on him as we did. But if asleep, he waked up 
promptly at this stage of the proceedings. All along our line the 
boys began firing at him, yelling as they did so. The moment I 
saw him, I said to myself, with an exultant thrill, "You re my 
game." He was a big fellow, broad across the back, wearing a 
wool hat, a gray jacket, and butternut trousers. My gun was 
loaded, I was all ready, and what followed didn t consume much 
more than two seconds of time. I threw my gun to my shoulder, 
let the muzzle sink until I saw through the front and rear sights 
the center of that broad back and then pulled the trigger. 
Porting my musket, I looked eagerly to the front, absolutely con 
fident that my vision would rest on the horse flying riderless 
across the field, and the soldier lying dead upon the ground. But 
to my utter amazement, there was the fellow yet on his horse, and, 
like John Gilpin of old, going, 

"Like an arrow swift 
Shot by an archer strong." 

He had a small gad, or switch, in his right hand, with which he 
was belaboring his horse every jump, and the upshot of the mat 
ter was, he reached and disappeared in the woods beyond, with 
out a scratch, so far as any of us on our side even knew. How 
my shot happened to miss that man is just one of the most 
unaccountable things that ever happened to me in my life. I was 
perfectly cool and collected at the time, and my nerves were steady 
as iron; he was a splendid mark, at close range, and I took a 
deadly aim. And then to think that all our other fellows missed 



242 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER 

him too! It was certainly a thing that surpasses all compre 
hension. 

At the time I am now writing these lines, a little ovyr iatf 
a century has passed away since this incident occurred, and ; t 
will here be recorded that now I am sincerely thankful that I 
failed to kill that man. Considering his marvelous escape on 
this occasion, the presumption is strong that he lived through the 
war, married some good woman, and became the father of a fam 
ily of interesting children, and likely some one of his boys fought 
under the old flag in the Spanish-American War, so it is prob 
ably all for the best. 

But, how in the world did I happen to miss him? 

Only a few minutes after this incident I experienced the 
closest call (so far as can be stated with certainty) that befell 
me during my service. On this day it so happened that Co. D 
was assigned a position on the extreme right of the skirmish line. 
This was not the regulation place for the company in the regi 
mental line, and just how this came about I don t know, J?ut so 
it was. As the first sergeant of D, my position was on the ex 
treme right of the company, consequently I was the right hand 
man of the whole skirmish line. We were continuing our ad 
vance across the field where we came on the vedette just men 
tioned, and all in high spirits. I had on a broad-brimmed felt 
hat, my overcoat, and beneath that what we called a "dress-coat," 
with the ends of my trouser legs tucked in my socks ; was carrying 
my gun at a ready, and eagerly looking for something to shoot 
at. There was a little bunch of Confederates in the woods on our 
right that were sort of "pot-shooting" at us as we were moving 
across the field, but we paid no attention to them, as the main 
force of the enemy was in our front. Suddenly I was whirled 
around on my feet like a top, and a sensation went through me 
similar, I suppose, to that which one feels when he receives an 
electric shock. I noticed that the breast of my overcoat was 
torn, but saw no blood nor felt any pain, so it was manifest that 
I wasn t hurt. It was clear that the ball which struck me had 
come from the right, so some of us paid attention to those fel- 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 243 

lows at once, and they soon disappeared. At the first oppor 
tunity after the battle was over I examined my clothes to find 
out what this bullet had done. As stated, it came from the right, 
and first went through the cape of my overcoat, then through 
the right-arm sleeves of my overcoat and dress coat, thence 
through the right breast of both those coats, and then through 
the left breast thereof, and from thence went on its way. All 
told, it made nine holes in my clothes, but never touched my flesh. 
But it was a fine line-shot and had it been two inches further back 
all would have been over with me. 

Just after this episode, as we approached a rise in the field 
we came in sight of the main line of the enemy, in the edge of the 
woods on the opposite side of the field. The right wing of our 
skirmish line then took ground to the right and the other wing to 
the left in order to uncover our main line. It then marched up, 
and the action became general. The musketry firing on both 
sides was heavy and incessant, and, in addition, the enemy had a 
battery of artillery, which kept roaring most furiously. We 
also had a battery, but it was not now in evidence, the reason be 
ing, as we afterwards learned, that it had exhausted its ammu 
nition during the previous course of the day, and had returned to 
Fortress Rosecrans for a further supply, but before it got back 
the fight was over. The engagement had lasted only a short 
time, when the. command was given to charge, and our whole line 
went forward. And thereupon I witnessed the bravest act that 
I ever saw performed by an officer of the rank of general. The 
regiment immediately on the left of the right wing of our regi 
ment was the 174th Ohio. It was a new regiment, and had never 
been under fire but once before, that occasion being the affair at 
Overall s creek three days previous. So, when we started on this 
charge, I anxiously watched this big, new Ohio regiment, for it 
was perfectly plain that if it faltered and went back, our little 
right wing of the 61st Illinois would have to do likewise. And 
presently that Ohio regiment stopped! and then we stopped too. 
I looked at those Ohio fellows ; there was that peculiar trembling, 
wavy motion along their line which precedes a general going to 



244 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

pieces, and it seemed like the game was up. But just at that su 
preme moment, old Gen. Milroy appeared, on his horse, right in 
front of that Ohio regiment, at a point 1 opposite the colors. He 
was bareheaded, holding his hat in his right hand, his long, heavy, 
iron-gray hair was streaming in the wind, and he was a most 
conspicuous mark. The Confederates were blazing away along 
their whole line, yelling like devils, and I fairly held my breath, 
expecting to see the old General forthwith pitch headlong i rom 
his horse, riddled with bullets. But he gave the enemy very lit 
tle time to practice on him. I was not close enough to hear what 
he said, but he called to those Ohio men in a ringing tone, and 
waved his hat towards the enemy. The effect was instantane 
ous and sublime. The whole line went forward with a furious 
yell, and surged over the Confederate works like a big blue wave, 
and the day was ours! 

The Confederates retreated on a double quick, but in good 
order. We captured two pieces of their artillery, a stand of 
colors, and about two hundred prisoners. We followed them a 
short distance, but saw them no more, and about sundown we 
marched back to Fortress Rosecrans. But before finally passing 
from this affair, a few other things connected therewith will oe 
mentioned. 

As we went over the Confederate works on our charge, I 
saw lying on the ground, inside, a dead Confederate lieutenant- 
colonel. He was on his back, his broad-brimmed hat pulled over 
his face, and a pair of large gauntlet gloves tucked in his belt. 
His sword was detached from the belt, in the scabbard, and was 
lying transversely across his body. As I rah by him I stooped 
down, and with my left hand picked up the sword, and carried it 
along. I brought it to camp with me, kept it until we were mus 
tered out, and then brought it home. Later a Masonic lodge was 
organized in Otterville, and some of the officers thereof borrow 
ed from me this sword for the use of the tyler of the lodge, in his 
official duties. In 1868 I came to Kansas, leaving the sword with 
the lodge. After the lapse of some years there came a time when 
I desired to resume possession of this relic of the war, but on 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 245 

taking action to obtain it, it was ascertained that in the mean 
time the lodge building, with all its furniture and paraphernalia, 
including the sword in question, had been accidentally destroyed 
by fire. And thus passed away the only trophy that I ever car 
ried off a battlefield. Many years later I met here in Kansas the 
late Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon, of Georgia, and had a 
long and interesting conversation with him. I told him the facts 
connected with my obtaining this sword, and of its subsequent 
loss, as above stated. He listened to me with deep attention, and 
at the close of my story, said he was satisfied from my general 
description of the dead Confederate officer that the body on 
which I found the sword was that of W. W. Billopp, lieutenant- 
colonel of the 29th Georgia, who was killed in this action. Gen. 
Gordon also said that he was well acquainted with Col. Billopp in 
his life time, and that he was a splendid gentleman and a brave 
soldier. It has always been a matter of regret with me that the 
sword was destroyed, for I intended, at the time I sought to re 
claim it from the Masonic lodge, to take steps to restore it to the 
family of the deceased officer, in the event that it could be done. 

When the Confederates retired from this battlefield of De 
cember 7th, they left their dead and severely wounded on the 
field, as it was impossible for them to do otherwise. I walked 
around among these unfortunates, and looked at them, and saw 
some things that made me feel sorrowful indeed. I looked in 
the haversacks of some of the dead to see what they had to eat, 
and what do you suppose was found? Nothing but raw, shelled 
corn! And many of them were barefooted, and judging from ap 
pearances, had been so indefinitely. Their feet were almost as 
black as those of a negro, with the skin wrinkled and corrugated 
to that extent that it looked like the hide of an alligator. These 
things inspired in me a respect for the Confederate soldiers that 
I never had felt before. The political leaders of the Davis and 
Toombs type who unnecessarily brought about the war are, in my 
opinion, deserving of the severest condemnation. But there can be 
no question that the common soldiers of the Confederate army 
acted from the most deep-seated convictions of the justice and the 



246 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

righteousness of their cause, and the fortitude and bravery they 
displayed in support of it are worthy of the highest admiration. 

After the engagement of December 7th, the Confederates still 
remained in our vicinity, and showed themselves at intervals, 
but made no aggressive movement. Cold weather set in about 
this time, the ground was covered with sleet, and our situation, 
cooped up in Fortress Rosecrans, was unpleasant and disagree 
able. We had long ago turned in our big Sibley tents, and drawn 
in place of them what we called "pup-tents." They were little, 
squatty things, composed of different sections of canvas that 
could be unbuttoned and taken apart, and carried by the men 
when on a march. They were large enough for only two occu 
pants, and there were no facilities for building fires in them, as 
in the case of the Sibleys. Owing to the fact that the Confed 
erates were all around us, we were short of fire-wood too. Stone 
river ran through the fortress, and there were some big logs in 
the river, which I suppose had been there ever since the work was 
constructed, and we dragged them out and used them to eke out 
our fires. They were all water-soaked, and hardly did more than 
smoulder, but they helped some. At night we would crowd into 
those little pup-tents, lie down with all our clothes on, wrap up in 
our blankets and try to sleep, but with poor success. I remember 
that usually about midnight I would "freeze out," and get up and 
stand around those sobbing, smouldering logs, and shiver. To 
make matters worse, we were put on half rations soon after we 
came to Murfreesboro, and full rations were not issued again until 
the Confederates retreated from Nashville after the battle of De 
cember 15-16. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 247 



CHAPTER XXII. 



THE FIGHT ON THE RAILROAD NEAR MURFREESBORO, 
DECEMBER 15, 1864. 

On the afternoon of December 12th the regiment fell in and 
we marched to the railroad depot at Murfreesboro, climbed on a 
train of box cars, and started for Stevenson, Alabama, about 80 
miles southeast of Murfreesboro. The number of the regiment 
who participated in this movement, according to the official re 
port of Maj. Nulton, was 150 men, and we were accompanied by 
a detachment of about forty of the 1st Michigan Engineers. 
(See Serial No. 93, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, 
p. 620.) We soon learned that the train was going to Stevenson 
to obtain rations for the troops at Murfreesboro, and that our 
province was to serve as guards for the train, to Stevenson and on 
its return. We had not gone more than eight or ten miles 
from Murfreesboro before we ran into the Confederate 
cavalry vedettes who were scattered along at numerous 
points of observation near the railroad. However, on our 
approach they scurried away like quails. But in many 
places the track had been torn up, and culverts destroyed, and 
when we came to one of these breaks, the train had to stop un 
til our engineers could repair it, and then we went on. Right 
here I will say that those Michigan Engineers were splendid fel 
lows. There was a flat car with our train, and on this car was 
a supply of extra rails, spikes, and other railroad appliances, 
with all the tools that the engineers used in their work, and it 
was remarkable to see how quick those men would repair a break 
in the road. They also were provided with muskets and ac- 
couterments the same as ordinary soldiers, and when the necessity 
arose, (as it did before we got back to Murfreesboro,) they would 
drop their sledges and crowbars, buckle on their cartridge boxes 



248 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

and grab their muskets, and fight like tigers. It was "all the same 
to Joe" with them. After getting about thirty-five miles from 
Murfreesboro we saw no more of the enemy, the railroad from 
thereon was intact, and we arrived at Stevenson about 10 o clock 
on the morning of the 13th. The train was loaded with rations 
and early on the morning of the 14th we started back to Mur 
freesboro, having in addition to the force with which we left 
there, a squad of about thirty dismounted men of the 12th In 
diana Cavalry, who joined us at Stevenson. The grade up the 
eastern slope of the Cumberland Mountains was steep, a drizzling 
rain had fallen the night before, making the rails wet and slip 
pery, and the train had much difficulty in ascending the grade, 
and our progress was tedious and slow. This delay probably was 
the cause of our undoing, as will be revealed later. We didn t get 
over the mountains until some time in the afternoon, and went 
along slowly, but all right; and about dark reached Bell Buckle, 
32 miles from Murfreesboro. Here trouble began on a small 
scale. A Confederate cavalry vedette was on the alert, and fired 
at us the first shot of the night. The bullet went over us near 
where I was sitting on top of a car, with a sharp "ping," that told 
it came from a rifle. But we went on, proceeding slowly and cau 
tiously, for the night was pitch dark, and we were liable to find 
the railroad track destroyed at almost any place. At 2 o clock in 
the morning, just after leaving Christiana, about 15 miles from 
Murfreesboro, our troubles broke loose in good earnest. We en 
countered the Confederate cavalry in force, and also found the 
track in front badly torn up. We got off the cars, formed in line 
on both sides of the road and slowly advanced, halting whenever 
we came to a break in the road, until our Michigan Engineers 
could repair it. As above stated, they were bully boys, and under 
stood their business thoroughly, and very soon would patch up 
the breaks so that the train could proceed. But it went only about 
as fast as a man could walk, and during the balance of that cold, 
dark night, we marched along by the side of the track, skirmish 
ing with the enemy. On one occasion we ran right up against 




Major, 61st Illinois Infantry (later Colonel). 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 249 

their lirte, they being on their horses, and evidently awaiting our 
approach. Luckily for us, their guns must have been wet; they 
nearly all missed fire, with no result save a lively snapping of 
caps along substantially their entire line. But our guns went off, 
and we gave the fellows a volley that, at least, waked up all the 
owls in the neighborhood. It was so intensely dark that accurate 
shooting was out of the question, and whether we hurt anybody 
or not I don t know, but our foes galloped off in great haste, and 
disappeared for a while. Shortly before daylight, when we were 
within about six miles of Murfreesboro, we came to the worst 
break in the track we had yet encountered. It was at the end of 
a short cut in the road that was perhaps four or five feet deep. 
In front of this cut the track was demolished for several rods, and 
a deep little culvert was also destroyed. We sat down on the 
ground near the track, and our engineers went to work. The sit 
uation was like this: In our front, towards Murfreesboro, and 
on our right and left rear were corn fields, with the stalks yet 
standing, and on our left front was a high rocky ridge, heavily 
timbered with a dense growth of small cedars, and which ridge 
sloped abruptly down to the railroad track. A small affluent of 
Stone river, with a belt of willow along its banks, flowed in a 
winding course along our right, in the general direction of Mur 
freesboro. While we were sitting here on the ground, half asleep, 
waiting for the engineers to call out "All right!" there came a 
volley of musketry from the woods of the rocky ridge I have men 
tioned. We sprang to our feet, formed in the cut facing the ridge, 
and began returning the fire. After this had continued for some 
time, a party of the enemy moved to our rear, beyond gunshot, 
and began tearing up the track there, while another party took up 
a position on the opposite side of the little stream on our right, 
and opened fire on us from that direction. A portion of our force 
was shifted to the right of the train to meet the attack from this 
quarter, and the firing waxed hot and lively. Our engineers had 
seized their guns, and were blazing away with the rest of us, and 
our bunch of dismounted cavalry men were also busy with their 



250 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

carbines. This state of things continued for fully an hour, and I 
think some longer, when suddenly, coming from our left rear, a 
cannon ball screamed over our heads, followed by the roar of the 
gun. The commanding officer of Co. D in this affair (and the 
only officer of our company present ) was Lieut. Wallace, and he 
was standing near me when the cannon ball went over us. 
"What s that?" he exclaimed. "It means they have opened on us 
with artillery," I answered. "Well," he responded, "let em bang 
away with their pop-guns!" and I think we all felt equally indif 
ferent. We had become familiar with artillery and knew that at 
long range it was not very dangerous. But the enemy s cannon 
kept pounding away, and pretty soon a shot struck somewhere on 
the engine with a resounding crash. About this time Col. Grass 
gave the order to retreat. There was only one way of escape open, 
and that was down the track towards Murfreesboro. We hastily 
formed in two ranks, and started down the right side of the track 
in a double quick. As we passed out of the cut a body of dis 
mounted cavalry came out of the woods on the ridge to our left 
and gave us a volley of musketry. But, being on higher ground 
than we were, they overshot us badly, and did but little harm. 
We answered their fire, and their line halted. The command 
quickly went along our column to load and fire as we went, and 
"keep firing!" and we did so. We kept up a rattling, scattering 
fire on those fellows on our left which had the effect of standing 
them off, at any rate, and in the meantime we all did some of the 
fastest running down along the side of the railroad track that I 
have ever seen. Speaking for myself, I am satisfied that I never 
before surpassed it, and have never since equaled it. But we had 
all heard of Andersonville, and wanted no Confederate prison in 
ours. To add to our troubles, an irregular line of Confederate 
cavalry charged >on us through the corn field in our rear, firing 
and yelling at the top of their voices, "Halt! Halt! you G d 
Yankee sons of !" their remarks closing with an epithet 
concerning our maternal ancestors which, in the words of Colonel 
Carter of Cartersville, was "vehy gallin , suh." But, as said by 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 251 

the French soldier, old Peter, in "The Chronicles of the Drum," 
"Cheer up! tis no use to be glum, boys, 

Tis written, since fighting begun, 
That sometimes we fight and we conquer 
And sometimes we fight and we run." 

Occasionally we would send a bullet back at these discourteous 
pursuers, and possibly on account of that, or maybe some other 
reason, they refrained from closing in on us. 

About half a mile from where we left the train the railroad 
crossed on a high trestle the little stream I have mentioned, which 
here turned to the left, and we had to ford it. It was only about 
knee-deep, but awful cold. The Confederates did not attempt to 
pursue us further after we crossed the creek, and from there we 
continued our retirement unmolested. I fired one shot soon after we 
forded the stream, and I have always claimed, and. in my opinion, 
rightfully, that it was the last shot fired in action by the regi 
ment during the war. I will briefly state the circumstances con 
nected with the incident. In crossing the creek, in some manner 
I fell behind, which it may be said was no disgrace, as the rear, 
right then, was the place of danger. But, to be entirely frank 
about it, this action was not voluntary on my part, but because I 
was just about completely played out. Firing had now ceased, 
and I took my time, and soon was the tail-end man of what 
was left of us. Presently the creek made a bend to the right, and 
circled around a small elevated point of land on the opposite side, 
and on this little rise I saw a group of Confederate cavalrymen, 
four or five in number, seated on their horses, and quietly looking 
at us. They maybe thought there was no more fight left in us, 
and that they could gaze on our retreat with impunity. They 
probably were officers, as they had no muskets or carbines, and 
were apparently wearing better clothes than private soldiers. I 
noted especially that they had on black coats, of which the tails 
came down to their saddle-skirts. They were in easy shooting 
distance, and my gun was loaded. I dropped on one knee behind 
a sapling, rested my gun against the left side of the tree, took aim 
at the center of the bunch, and pulled the trigger. "Fiz-z-z ker- 



252 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

bang!" roared old Trimthicket with a deafening explosion, and a 
kick that sent me a-sprawling on my back! There were two loads 
in my gun ! My last preceding charge had missed fire, and in the 
excitement of the moment and the confusion and uproar around 
me, I had failed to notice it, and rammed home another load. But 
I regained my feet instantly, and eagerly looked to see the ef 
fect of my shot. Nobody was lying on the ground, but that entire 
party was leaving the spot, in a gallop, with their heads bent for 
ward and their coat tails flying behind them. Their curiosity was 
evidently satisfied. There is no mistake that I sent two bullets 
through the center of that squad, but whether they hit anybody 
or not I don t know. 

At a point about a mile or so from where we left the train, 
we reached one of our railroad block houses, held by a small gar 
rison. Here we halted, and reformed. As I came slowly trudging 
up to Co. D, Bill Banfield was talking to Lieut. Wallace, and said: 
"I guess Stillwell s gone up. Haven t seen him since we crossed 
that creek." I stepped forward and in a brief remark, containing 
some language not fitting for a Sunday-school superintendent, in 
formed Bill that he was laboring under a mistake. 

Soon after we arrived at the blockhouse a strong force of our 
troops, having marched out that morning from Murfreesboro, also 
appeared on the ground. Gen. Rousseau had learned that we were 
attacked, and had sent these troops to our assistance, but they 
were too late. He had also sent a detachment to this point the 
evening before, to meet us, but on account of our being delayed, 
as before stated, we did not appear, so this party, after waiting 
till some time after sunset, marched back to Murfreesboro. 

In this affair we lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, about 
half the regiment, including Col. Grass, who was captured. He 
was a heavy-set man, somewhat fleshy, and at this time a little 
over forty years old. He became completely exhausted on our re 
treat, (being on foot,) tumbled over, and the Confederates got 
him. Many years later, when we were both living in Kansas, 1 
had an interesting conversation with him about this affair. He 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 253 

told me that his sole reason for ordering the retreat was that he 
had ascertained shortly before the artillery opened on us, that our 
cartridges were almost exhausted. Then, when our assailants 
brought their artillery into play, he realized, he said, that the train 
was doomed, that it would soon be knocked to pieces, and also set on 
fire by the balls and shells of the enemy, and that we were power 
less to prevent it. Under these circumstances he deemed it his 
duty to give up the train, and save his men, if possible. Col. Grass 
was a good and brave man, and I have no doubt that he acted in 
this matter according to his sincere convictions of duty. 

The Confederate commander in this action was Gen. L. S. 
Ross of Texas, who, after the war, served two terms as governor 
of that State. All his men were Texans, (with the possible excep 
tion of the artillery,) and, according to the official reports, were 
more than three times our number. I think it is permissible to 
here quote a small portion of the official report made by Gen. Ross 
of this engagement, as found on page 771, Serial No. 93, Official 
Records of the War of the Rebellion. Speaking of our defense 
of the train, he says: 

"The men guarding it fought desperately for over an hour, 
having a strong position in a cut of the railroad, but were finally 
routed by a most gallant charge of the Sixth Texas, supported by 
the Third Texas." 

While the tribute thus paid by Gen. Ross to the manner of 
our defense is appreciated, nevertheless I will say that he is abso 
lutely wrong in saying that we were "routed" by the charge he 
mentions. We retreated simply and solely in obedience to the 
orders of Col. Grass, our commander, and neither the Sixth Texas 
nor the Third Texas had a thing to do in bringing that about. I 
don t deny that they followed us pretty closely after we got 
started. 

Among our casualties in this affair was Lt. Lorenzo J. Miner, 
of Co. B, (originally of Co. C,) a splendid young man, and a most 
excellent officer. In addition to his other efficient soldierly qualities 
he deservedly had the reputation of being the best drill-master in 



254 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

the regiment. I happened to see him on our retreat, shortly before 
we arrived at the blockhouse. He was being helped off the field 
by Sergt. Amos Davis of Co. C and another soldier, one on each side, 
supporting him. They were walking slowly. Miner s eyes were 
fixed on the ground, and he was deathly pale. I saw from his man 
ner that he was badly hurt, but did not learn the extent of it till 
later. He was shot somewhere through the body. The wound 
proved mortal and he died a few days after the fight. 

And so it was, that after more than three years of brave and 
faithful service he was fated to lose his life in the last action the 
regiment was in a small, obscure affair among the rocks and 
bushes, and which, when mentioned in the general histories at all, 
is disposed of in a paragraph of about four lines. But a soldier in 
time of war has no control over his fate, and no option in the selec 
tion of the time when, nor the place where, it may be his lot to 
"stack arms" forever. 

I will now resume the account of what occurred after we 
reached the blockhouse. It will be brief. We formed in line with 
the reinforcements that had come from Murfreesboro, and ad 
vanced toward the train. We encountered no opposition; the 
enemy had set fire to the cars, and then had hastily and entirely 
disappeared. 

I have recently discovered in a modern edition of the Reports 
of the Adjutant-General of Illinois, (the date on the title page 
being 1901,) that in the revised sketch of our regiment a recital 
has crept in stating that in our subsequent advance we "recap 
tured the train in time to prevent its destruction." How that 
statement got into the sketch I do not know, and I am sorry to 
be under the necessity of saying that it is not true. When we got 
back to the scene of the fight the train was a mass of roaring 
flame, the resulting consequence being that every car was finally 
consumed. No matter how much it may hurt, it is always best 
to be fair, and tell the truth. 

In the course of the day our troops all returned to Murfrees 
boro. Maj. Nulton, who was now our regimental commander, 




1st Lieutenant Co. H, (>lst Illinois Infantry. 

Died December 19, 18(34, of a wound received in a fight on 
the railroad, near Murfreesboro, Tenn., December lo !Sn4. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 255 

gave us of the 61st permission to march back "at will." That is, 
we could start when we got ready, singly or in squads, and not in 
regimental formation. So Bill Banfield and I started out to get 
something to eat, as we were very hungry. Since leaving Steven 
son on the morning of the 14th, we had had no opportunity to cook 
anything, and had eaten nothing but some hardtack and raw 
bacon. Then that night we had left our haversacks on top of the 
cars when we got off the train to skirmish with the enemy, and 
never saw them again. And this was a special grievance for Bill 
and me. We each had a little money, and on the morning we left 
Stevenson had gone to a sutler s, and made some purchases to 
insure us an extra good meal when we got back to Murfreesboro. 
I bought a little can of condensed milk, (having always had a 
weakness for milk in coffee,) while Bill, with a kind of queer 
taste, invested in a can of lobsters. One time that night, while 
sitting on the ground, in the cold and dark, tired, hungry, and 
sleepy, waiting while our engineers patched a break in the rail 
road, Bill, with a view, I reckon, to cheering us both up, delivered 
himself in this wise: "This is a little tough, Stillwell, but just 
think of that bully dinner we ll have when we get to Murfrees 
boro! You ve your can of condensed milk, and I ve mine of lob 
sters ; we ll have coffee with milk in it, and then, with some hard 
tack, we ll have a spread that will make up for this all right." 
But, alas! 

"The best laid schemes o mice and men 
Gang aft a-gley." 

My precious condensed milk, and the crustaceans aforesaid of 
Bill s, doubtless went glimmering down the alimentary canal of 
some long-haired Texan, to his great satisfaction. My wish at 
the time was that the darned lobsters might make the fellow sick, 
which they probably did. So Bill and I were now at the burn 
ing train, looking for something to take the place of our captured 
Belshazzar banquet. We found a car that was loaded with pick 
led pork in barrels, and getting a fence rail, we finally succeeded, 
after some peril and much difficulty, in prying off one of the bar- 



256 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

rels, and it fell to the ground, bursting open as it did so, and scat 
tering the blazing pieces of pork all around. We each got a por 
tion, and then sat down on a big rock, and proceeded to devour 
our respective chunks without further ceremony. The outside of 
the meat was burned to a coal, but we were hungry, all of it 
tasted mighty sweet, and we gnawed it just like dogs. At the 
close of the repast, I took a look at Bill. His face was as black as 
tar from contact with the burnt pork, and in other respects his 
"tout ensemble" "left much to be desired." I thought if I looked 
as depraved as Bill certainly did it would be advisable to avoid 
any pocket looking-glass until after a thorough facial ablution 
with soft water and plenty of soap. Dinner over, we were soon 
ready for the march to camp, (there being no dishes to wash,) 
and started down the railroad track for Murfreesboro. We took 
our time, and didn t reach camp till about sundown. We were the 
last arrivals of Co. D, and, as there were all sorts of rumors 
afloat, we afterwards learned that Capt. Keeley had become quite 
anxious about us. As we turned down our company street I saw 
the Captain standing in front of his tent, looking in our direction. 
After the affairs of the 4th and the 7th, I had taken much satis 
faction, in speaking to him of those events, in adopting the phrase 
ology of the old chaplain, and had expressed myself several times 
in language like this: "And we smote them, hip and thigh, even 
as Joash smote Boheel !" But it was now necessary to amend my 
boastful statement, so as I approached Capt. Keeley, and before 
anything else had been spoken, I made to him this announcement : 
"And they smote us, hip and thigh, even as Joash smote Boheel!" 
Keeley laughed, but it was a rather dry laugh, and he answered : 
"Well, I m glad they didn t smite you boys, anyhow but, great 
God ! go wash your faces, and clean up generally. You both look 
like the very devil himself." We passed on, complied with the 
Captain s directions, and then I curled up in my dog tent and slept 
without a break until next morning. 

In concluding my account of this affair it will be stated that 
the most of our boys who were captured in the fight, and (I think) 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 257 

all the line officers who had the same bad luck, made their escape, 
singly, or in little parties, not long thereafter. Their Confederate 
captors, on or about the day after our encounter, had hurriedly 
joined the army of Gen. Hood, taking their prisoners with them. 
In their retreat from Tennessee on this occasion, the Confederates 
had a hard and perilous time. The guards of the captured Yankees 
were probably well-nigh worn out, and it is likely that, on account 
of their crushing defeat at Nashville, they had also become dis 
couraged and careless. Anyhow, the most of our fellows got away 
while Hood was yet on the north side of the Tennessee river. He 
crossed that stream with the wreck of his army on the 26th and 
27th of December, and fell back into Mississippi. 



258 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 



MURFREESBORO. WINTER OF 1864-1865. FRANKLIN.- 
SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1865. 

After the retreat of Hood from Nashville, matters became 
very quiet and uneventful with us at Murfreesboro. The regiment 
shifted its camp from the inside of Fortress Rosecrans out into 
open ground on the outskirts of the town, and proceeded to build 
winter quarters. These consisted of log cabins, like those we built 
at Little Rock the previous winter, only now the logs were cedar 
instead of pine. There were extensive cedar forests in the im 
mediate vicinity of Murfreesboro, and we had no difficulty whatever 
in getting the material. And we had plenty of nice, fragrant cedar 
wood to burn in our fire-places, which was much better than soggy 
Arkansas pine. And I remember with pleasure a matter con 
nected with the rations we had in the fore part of the winter. For 
some reason or other the supply of hardtack became practically 
exhausted, and we had but little in the line of flour bread, even for 
some weeks after Hood retreated from Nashville. But in the 
country north of Murfreesboro was an abundance of corn, and 
there were plenty of water-mills, so Gen. Rousseau sent out forag 
ing parties in that region and appropriated the corn, and set the 
mills to grinding it, and oh, what fine cornbread we had ! We used 
to make "asfc-cakes," and they were splendid. The method of mak 
ing and cooking an ash-cake was to mix a quantity of meal with 
proper proportions of water, grease, and salt, wrap the meal dough 
in some dampened paper, or a clean, wet cloth, then put it in the 
fire and cover it with hot ashes and coals. By testing with a sharp 
stick we could tell when the cake was done, then we would yank 
it from the fire, scrape off the fragments of the covering and the 
adhering ashes, and then, with bacon broiled on the cedar coals, 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 25!) 

and plenty of good strong coffee, we would have a dinner better 
than any (from my standpoint) that Delmonico s ever served up 
in its palmiest days. 

On February 4th, 1865, the non-veterans and recruits of th^ 
regiment came to us from Arkansas, and so we were once more all 
together, except a few that were in the Confederate prisons down 
South. We were all glad to see each other once more, and had 
many tales to "swap," about our respective experiences during 
our separation. 

On February 10th, Lieutenant Wallace resigned, and returned 
to his home in Illinois. The chief reason for his resignation was 
on account of some private matter at home, which was giving him 
much anxiety and trouble. Further, the war in the region, where 
we were was practically over, and there was nothing doing, with 
no prospect, so far as we knew, of any mUitary activity for the 
regiment in the future. Wallace s resignation left Co. D without 
a second lieutenant, as we then did not have enough enlisted men 
in the company to entitle us to a full complement of commissioned 
officers, and the place remained vacant for some months. 

On March 21st, we left Murfreesboro by rail and went to 
Nashville, and thence to Franklin, about twenty miles south of 
Nashville, and on what was then called the Nashville and Decatur 
railroad. A desperate and bloody battle occurred here between 
our forces under the command of Gen. Schofield and the Confed 
erates under Gen. Hood, on November 30th, only two days after 
our arrival at Murfreesboro. I have often wondered why it was 
that Gen. Thomas, our department commander, did not send our 
regiment, on our arrival at Nashville, to reinforce Schofield, in 
stead of to Murfreesboro, for Gen. Schofield certainly needed all 
the help he could get. But it is probable that Gen. Thomas had 
some good reason for his action. 

When we arrived at Franklin we relieved the regiment that 
was on duty there as a garrison, and it went somewhere else. It 
was the 75th Pennsylvania, and the officers and men composing it, 



200 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

so far as I saw, were all Germans. And they were fine, soldierly 
looking fellows, too. From this time until we left Franklin in the 
following September, our regiment comprised all the Union force 
that was stationed at the town. Maj. Nulton was in command of 
the post, and, subject only to higher authorities at a distance, wj 
were "monarchs of all we surveyed." When we came to Franklin 
the signs of the battle of November 30th were yet fresh and plenti 
ful. As soon as time and opportunity afforded, I walked over the 
whole field, (in fact, several times,) looking with deep interest at 
all the evidences of the battle. I remember especially the ap 
pearance of a scattered grove of young locust trees which stood 
at a point opposite the right center of the Union line. For some 
hours the grove was right between the fire of both the Union and 
the Confederate lines, and the manner in which the trees had been 
riddled with musket balls was truly remarkable. It looked as if 
a snowbird could not have lived in that grove while the firing was 
in progress. 

General William A. Quarles, of Tennessee, was one of the 
Confederate generals who were wounded in this battle, and after 
incurring his wound was taken to the house of a Tennessee planter, 
Col. McGavock, about a mile from Franklin, near the Harpeth 
river. Two or three other wounded Confederate officers of less 
rank were taken to the same place. When the Confederates re 
treated from Nashville, Gen. Quarles and these other wounded offi 
cers were unable to accompany the army. They remained at Mc- 
Gavock s, and were taken prisoners by our forces. They were put 
under a sort of parole of honor, and allowed to remain where they 
were, without being guarded. They had substantially recovered 
from their wounds at the time our regiment arrived at Franklin, 
and not long thereafter Capt. Keeley came to me one day, and 
handed me an order from. Maj. Nulton, which directed me to take 
a detail of four men, with two ambulances, and go to McGavock s 
and get Gen. Quarles and the other Confederate officers who were 
there, and bring them into Franklin, for the purpose of being sent 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 261 

to Nashville, and thence to the north to some military prison. I 
thereupon detailed Bill Banfield and three other boys, told them 
what our business was, and instructed them to brush up nicely, and 
have their arms and accouterments in first class condition, and, in 
general, to be looking their best. Having obtained the ambulances, 
with drivers, we climbed aboard, and soon arrived at the fine resi 
dence of old Col. McGavock. I went into the house, met the lady of 
the establishment, and inquired of her for Gen. Quarles, and was 
informed that he was in an upper room. I requested the lady to 
give the general my compliments, and tell him that I desired to 
see him. She disappeared, and soon the general walked into the 
room where I was awaiting him. He was a man slightly below 
medium stature, heavy set, black hair, piercing black eyes, and 
looked to be about thirty years old. He was a splendid looking 
soldier. I stepped forward and saluted him, and briefly and courte 
ously told him my business. "All right, sergeant," he answered, 
"we ll be ready in a few minutes." Their preparations were soon 
completed, and we left the house. I assigned the general and one of 
the other officers to a seat near the front in one of the ambulances, 
and Bill Banfield and I occupied the seat behind them, and the re 
maining guards and prisoners rode in the other conveyance. There 
was only one remark made on the entire trip back to Franklin, 
and I ll mention it presently. We emerged from the woods into the 
Columbia pike at a point about three-quarters of a mile in front 
of our main line of works that had been charged repeatedly and 
desperately by the Confederates in the late battle. The ground 
sloped gently down towards the works, and for fully half a mile was 
as level as a house floor. I noticed that at the moment we reached 
the pike Gen. Quarles began to take an intense interest in the sur 
roundings. He would lean forward, and look to the right, to the 
front, to the left, and occasionally throw a hasty glance backward, 
but said nothing. Finally we passed through our works, near 
the historic "cotton-gin," and the general drew a deep breath, 
leaned back against his seat, and said : "Well, by God, the next time 
I fight at Franklin, I want to let the Columbia pike severely alone !" 



262 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

No one made any response, and the remainder of the journey was 
finished in silence. I duly delivered Gen. Quarles and his fellow- 
prisoners to Maj. Nulton, and never saw any of them again. 

Early in April, decisive military operations took place in Vir 
ginia. On the 3rd of that month our forces marched into Richmond, 
and on the 9th the army of Gen. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant. 
At Franklin we were on a telegraph line, and only about twenty 
miles from department headquarters, so the intelligence of those 
events was not long in reaching us. I am just unable to tell how 
profoundly gratified we were to hear of the capture of Richmond, 
and of Lee s army. We were satisfied that those victories meant 
the speedy and triumphant end of the war. It had been a long, 
desperate, and bloody struggle, and frequently the final result 
looked doubtful and gloomy. But now, "there were signs in the 
sky that the darkness was gone; there were tokens in endless 
array"; and the feeling among the common soldiers was one of 
heart-felt relief and satisfaction. But suddenly our joy was turned 
into the most distressing grief and mourning. Only a few days 
after we heard of Lee s surrender came the awful tidings of the 
foul murder of Mr. Lincoln. I well remember the manner of the 
men when the intelligence of the dastardly crime was flashed to 
us at Franklin. They seemed dazed and stunned, and were re 
luctant to believe it, until the fact was confirmed beyond question. 
They sat around in camp under the trees, talking low, and saying 
but little, as if the matter were one that made mere words utterly 
useless. But they were in a desperate frame of mind, and had 
there been the least appearance of exultation over the murder of 
Mr. Lincoln by any of the people of Franklin, the place would have 
been laid in ashes instanter. But the citizens seemed to understand 
the situation. They went into their houses, and closed their doors, 
and the town looked as if deserted. To one who had been among 
the soldiers for some years, it was easy to comprehend and under 
stand their feelings on this occasion. For the last two years of the 
war especially, the men had come to regard Mr. Lincoln with senti 
ments of veneration and love. To them he really was "Father 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 263 

Abraham," with all that the term implied. And this regard was 
also entertained by men of high rank in the army. Gen. Sherman, 
in speaking of Mr. Lincoln, says this : 

"Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the 
Clements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other." 
(Memoirs of Gen. W. T. Sherman, revised edition, Vol. 2, p. 328.) 

For my part, I have been of the opinion, for many years, that 
Abraham Lincoln was the greatest man the world has ever known. 

In the latter part of June the recruits of the 83rd, the 98th, 
and the 123rd Illinois Infantry were transferred to the 61st, mak 
ing the old regiment about nine hundred strong. Co. D received 
forty-six of the transferred men, all of these being from the 83rd 
Illinois. And they were a fine set of boys, too. Their homes were, 
in the main, in northwestern Illinois, in the counties of Mercer, 
Rock Island, and Warren. They all had received a good common 
school education, were intelligent, and prompt and cheerful in the 
discharge of their duties. They were good soldiers, in every sense 
of the word. It is a little singular that, since the muster-out of the 
regiment in the following September, I have never met a single one 
of these boys. 

The ranks of the regiment now being filled nearly to the max 
imum, the most of the vacancies that existed in the line of com 
missioned officers were filled just as promptly as circumstances 
would permit. Lieut. Col. Grass had been discharged on May 15th, 
1865, and Maj. Nulton, who was now our ranking field officer, was, 
on July llth, promoted to the position of Colonel. He was the first, 
and only, colonel the regiment ever had. The vacancy in the lieu 
tenant-colonelcy of the regiment was never filled, for what reason 
I do not know. Capt. Keeley was promoted Major, and first Lieu 
tenant Warren to Captain of Co. D in Keeley s stead. And thus it 
came to pass that on July llth I received a commission as second 
lieutenant of our company, and on August 21st was promoted to 
first lieutenant. Soon after receiving my commission, Capt. Warren 
was detailed on some special duty which took him away from Frank 
lin for some weeks, and consequently during his absence I was the 



264 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

commanding officer of Co. D. So far as ever came to my knowl 
edge, I got along all right, and very pleasantly. It is a fact, at any 
rate, that I presented a more respectable appearance than that 
which was displayed during the brief time I held the position at 
Austin, Arkansas, in May, 1864. 




Major, 61st Illinois Infantry. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 265 



CHAPTER XXIV. 



THE SOLDIER S PAY; RATIONS; ALLUSIONS TO SOME, OF 

THE USEFUL LESSONS LEARNED BY SERVICE IN THE 

ARMY IN TIME OF WAR; COURAGE IN BATTLE. 

This story is now drawing- to a close, so I will here speak of 
some things of a general nature, and which have not been hereto 
fore mentioned, except perhaps casually. 

One important feature in the life of a soldier was the matter 
of his pay, and a few words on that subject may not be out of place. 
When I enlisted in January, 1862, the monthly pay of the enlisted 
men of a regiment of infantry was as follows : First sergeant, $20 ; 
duty sergeants, $17; corporals and privates, $13. By act of Con 
gress of May 1st, 1864, the monthly pay of the enlisted men was 
increased, and from that date was as follows : First sergeant, $24 ; 
duty sergeants, $20; corporals, $18; privates, $16. That rate ex 
isted as long, at least, as we remained in the service. The first pay 
ment made to our regiment was on May 1st, 1862, while we were 
in camp at Owl Creek, Tennessee. The amount I received was 
$49.40, and of this I sent $45 home to my father at the first oppor 
tunity. For a poor man, he was heavily in debt at the time of my 
enlistment, and was left without any boys to help him do the work 
upon the farm, so I regarded it as my duty to send him every dol 
lar of my pay that possibly could be spared, and did so as long as 
I was in the service. But he finally got out of debt during the war. 
He had good crops, and all manner of farm products brought high 
prices, so the war period was financially a prosperous one for him. 
And, to be fair about it, I will say that he later repaid me, when I 
was pursuing my law studies at the Albany, New York, Law School, 
almost all the money I had sent him while in the army. So the re 
sult really was that the money received by me, as a soldier, was 
what later enabled me to qualify as a lawyer. 



266 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

I have heretofore said in these reminiscences that the great 
"stand-bys" in the way of the food of the soldiers of the western 
armies were coffee, sow-belly, Yankee beans, and hardtack. But 
other articles of diet were also issued to us, some of which we liked, 
while others were flat failures. I have previously said something 
about the antipathy I had for rice. The French General, Baron 
Gourgaud, in his "Talks of Napoleon at St. Helena" (p. 240), re 
cords Napoleon as having said, "Rice is the best food for the sol 
dier." Napoleon, in my opinion, was the greatest soldier that man 
kind ever produced, but all the same, I emphatically dissent from 
his rice proposition. His remark may have been correct when applied 
to European soldiers of his time and place, but I know it wouldn t 
fit western American boys of 1861-65. 

There were a few occasions when an article of diet was issued 
called "desiccated potatoes." For "desiccated" the boys promptly 
substituted "desecrated," and "desecrated potatoes" was its name 
among the rank and file from start to finish. It consisted of Irish 
potatoes cut up fine and thoroughly dried. In appearance it much 
resembled the modern preparation called "grape nuts." We would 
mix it in water, grease, and salt, and make it up into little cakes, 
which we would fry, and they were first rate. There was a while 
when we were at Bolivar, Tennessee, that some stuff called "com 
pressed vegetables" was issued to us, which the boys, almost 
unanimously, considered an awful fraud. It was composed of all 
sorts of vegetables, pressed into small bales, in a solid mass, and 
as dry as threshed straw. The conglomeration contained turnip- 
tops, cabbage leaves, string-beans (pod and all), onion blades, and 
possibly some of every other kind of a vegetable that ever grew 
in a garden. It came to the army in small boxes, about the size of 
the Chinese tea-boxes that were frequently seen in this country 
about fifty years ago. In the process of cooking, it would swell up 
prodigiously, a great deal more so than rice. The Germans in 
the regiment would make big dishes of soup out of this "baled hay," 
as we called it, and they liked it, but the native Americans, after 
one trial, wouldn t touch it. I think about the last box of it that 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 267 

was issued to our company was pitched into a ditch in the rear of 
the camp, and it soon got thoroughly soaked and loomed up about 
as big as a fair-sized hay-cock. "Split-peas" were issued to us, 
more or less, during all the time we were in the service. My under 
standing was that they were the ordinary garden peas. They were 
split in two, dried, and about as hard as gravel. But they yielded 
to cooking, made excellent food, and we were all fond of them. In 
our opinion, when properly cooked, they were almost as good as 
Yankee beans. 

When our forces captured Little Rock in September, 1863, we 
obtained possession, among other plunder, of quite a quantity of 
Confederate commissary stores. Among these was a copious supply 
of "jerked beef." It consisted of narrow, thin strips of beef, which 
had been dried on scaffolds in the sun, and it is no exaggeration to 
say that it was almost as hard and dry as a cottonwood chip. Our 
manner of eating it was simply to cut off a chunk about as big as 
one of our elongated musket balls, and proceed to "chaw." It was 
rather a comical sight to see us in our cabins of a cold winter night, 
sitting by the fire, and all solemnly "chawing" away, in profound 
silence, on the Johnnies jerked beef. But, if sufficiently masti 
cated, it was nutritious and healthful, and we all liked it. I often 
thought it would have been a good thing if the government had 
made this kind of beef a permanent and regular addition to our 
rations. As long as kept in the dry, it would apparently keep in 
definitely, and a piece big enough to last a soldier two or three days 
would take up but little space in a haversack. 

Passing from the topic of army rations, I will now take leave 
to say here, with sincerity and emphasis, that the best school to 
fit me for thq practical affairs of life that I ever attended was in 
the old 61st Illinois during the Civil War. It would be too long a 
story to undertake to tell all the benefits derived from that ex 
perience, but a few will be alluded to. In the first place, when I 
was a boy at home, I was, to some extent, a "spoiled child." I was 
exceedingly particular and "finicky" about my food. Fat meat I 
abhorred, and wouldn t touch it, and on the other hand, when we 



268 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

had chicken to eat, the gizzard was claimed by me as my sole and 
exclusive tid-bit, and "Leander" always got it. Let it be known 
that in the regiment those habits were gotten over so soon that I 
was astonished myself. The army in time of war is no place for 
a "sissy-boy ;" it will make a man of him quicker, in my opinion, 
than any other sort of experience he could undergo. And suffice 
it to say, on the food question, that my life as a soldier forever 
cured me of being fastidious or fault-finding about what I had to 
eat. I have gone hungry too many times to give way to such weak 
ness when sitting down in a comfortable room to a table provided 
with plenty that was good enough for any reasonable man. I have 
no patience with a person who is addicted to complaining or growl 
ing about his food. Some years ago there was an occasion when 
I took breakfast at a decent little hotel at a country way-station 
on a railroad out in Kansas. It was an early breakfast, for the ac 
commodation of guests who would leave on an early morning train, 
and there were only two at the table, a young traveling com 
mercial man and myself. The drummer ordered (with other 
things) a couple of fried eggs, and that fellow sent the poor little 
dining room girl back with those eggs three times before he got 
them fitted to the exact shade of taste to suit his exquisite palate. 
And he did this, too, in a manner and words that were offensive 
and almost brutal. It was none of my business, so I kept my mouth 
shut and said nothing, but I would have given a reasonable sum 
to have been the proprietor of that hotel about five minutes. That 
fool would then have been ordered to get his grip and leave the 
house, and he would have left, too. 

I do not know how it may have been with other regiments in 
the matter now to be mentioned, but I presume it was substantially 
the same as in ours. And the course pursued with us had a direct 
tendency to make one indifferent as to the precise cut of his clothes. 
It is true that attention was paid to shoes, to that extent, at least, 
that the quartermaster tried to give each man a pair that approx 
imated to the number he wore. But coats, trousers, and the other 
clothes were piled up in separate heaps, and each man was just 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 269 

thrown the first garment on the top of the heap; he took it and 
walked away. If it was an outrageous fit, he would swap with some 
one if possible, otherwise he got along as best he could. Now, in 
civil life, I have frequently been amused in noting some dudish 
young fellow in a little country store trying to fit himself out with 
a light summer coat, or something similar. He would put on the 
garment, stand in front of a big looking glass, twist himse.f into all 
sorts of shapes so as to get a view from every possible angle, then 
remove that one, and call for another. Finally, after trying on 
about every coat in the house, he would leave without making a 
purchase, having found nothing that suited the exact contour of 
his delicately moulded form. A very brief experience in a regiment 
that had a gruff old quartermaster would take that tuck out of that 
Beau Brummell, in short order. 

Sometimes I have been, at a late hour on a stormy night, at a 
way-station on some "jerk-water" railroad, waiting for a belated 
train, with others in the same predicament. And it was comical 
to note the irritation of some of these fellows and the fuss they 
made about the train being late. The railroad, and all the officers, 
would be condemned and abused in the most savage terms on ac 
count of this little delay. And yet we were in a warm room, with 
benches to sit on, with full stomachs, and physically just as com 
fortable as we possibly could be. The thought would always occur 
to me, on such episodes, that if those kickers had to sit down in a 
dirt road, in the mud, with a cold rain pelting down on them, and 
just endure all this until a broken bridge in front was fixed up so 
that the artillery and wagon train could get along, then a few 
incidents of that kind would be a benefit to them. And instances 
like the foregoing might be multiplied indefinitely. On the whole, 
life in the army in a time of war tended to develop patience, con 
tentment with the surroundings, and equanimity of temper and 
mind in general. And, from the highest to the lowest, differing 
only in degree, it would bring out energy, prompt decision, intelli 
gent action, and all the latent force of character a man possessed. 

I suppose, in reminiscences of this nature, one should give his 



270 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

impressions, or views, in relation to that much talked about sub 
ject, "Courage in battle." Now, in what I have to say on that 
head, I can speak advisedly mainly for myself only. I think that 
the principal thing that held me to the work was simply pride; and 
am of the opinion that it was the same thing with most of the com 
mon soldiers. A prominent American functionary some years ago 
said something about our people being "too proud to fight." With 
the soldiers of the Civil War it was exactly the reverse, they were 
"too proud to run"; unless it was manifest that the situation was 
hopeless, and that for the time being nothing else could be done. 
And, in the latter case, when the whole line goes back, there is no 
personal odium attaching to any one individual ; they are all in the 
same boat. The idea of the influence of pride is well illustrated by 
an old-time war story, as follows : A soMier on the firing line hap 
pened to notice a terribly affrighted rabbit running to the rear at 
the top of its speed. "Go it, cotton-tail!" yelled the soldier. "I d 
run too if I had no more reputation to lose than you have." 

It is true that in the first stages of the war the fighting quali 
ties of American soldiers did not appear in altogether a favorable 
light. But at that time the fact is that the volunteer armies on 
both sides were not much better than mere armed mobs, and with 
out discipline or cohesion. But those conditions didn t last long, 
and there was never but one Bull Run. 

Enoch Wallace was home on recruiting service some weeks in 
the fall of 1862, and when he rejoined the regiment he told me 
something my father said in a conversation that occurred between 
the two. They were talking about the war, battles, and topics of 
that sort, and in the course of their talk Enoch told me that my 
lather said that while he hoped his boy would come through the war 
L\\ right, yet he would rather "Leander should be killed dead, while 
standing up and fighting like a man, than that he should run, and 
disgrace the family." I have no thought from the nature of the 
conversation as told to me by Enoch that my father made this re 
mark with any intention of its being repeated to me. It was sudden 
and spontaneous, and just the way the old backwoodsman felt. But 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 271 

1 never forgot it, and it helped me several times. For, to be per 
fectly frank about it, and tell the plain truth, I will set it down here 
that, so far as I was concerned, away down in the bottom of my 
heart I just secretly dreaded a battle. But we were soldiers, and it 
was our business to fight when the time came, so the only thing 
to then do was to summon up our pride and resolution, and face the 
ordeal with all the fortitude we could command. And while I ad 
mit the existence of this feeling of dread before the fight, yet it is 
also true that when it was on, and one was in the thick of it, with 
the smell of gunpowder permeating h s whole system, then a signal 
change comes over a man. He is seized with a furious desire to 
kill. There are his foes, right in plain view, give it to em, d em ! 
and for the time being he becomes almost oblivious to the sense 
of danger. 

And while it was only human nature to dread a battle, and 
1 think it would be mere affectation to deny it, yet I also know that 
we common soldiers strongly felt that when fighting did break loose 
close at hand, or within the general scope of our operations, then 
we ought to be in it, with the others, and doing our part. That was 
what we were there for, and somehow a soldier didn t feel just right 
for fighting to be going on all round him, or in his vicinity, and he 
doing nothing but lying back somewhere, eating government ra 
tions. 

But, all things considered, the best definition of true courage 
I have ever read is that given by Gen. Sherman in his Memoirs, as 
follows : 

"I would define true courage," (he says,) "to be a perfect 
sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to 
endure it." (Sherman s Memoirs, revised edition, Vol. 2, p. 395.) 
But, I will further say, in this connection, that, in my opinion, much 
depends, sometimes, especially at a critical moment, on the com 
mander of the men who is right on the ground, or close at hand. 
This is shown by the result attained by Gen. Milroy in the incident 
I have previously mentioned. And, on a larger scale, the inspiring 
conduct of Gen. Sheridan at the battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia, 



272 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

is probably the most striking example in modern history of what a 
brave and resolute leader of men can accomplish under circum 
stances when apparently all is lost. And, on the other hand, I think 
there is no doubt that the battle of Wilson s Creek, Missouri, on 
August 10, 1861, was a Union victory up to the time of the death 
of Gen. Lyon, and would have remained such if the officer who suc 
ceeded Lyon had possessed the nerve of his fallen chief. But he 
didn t, and so he marched our troops off the field, retreated from 
a beaten enemy, and hence Wilson s Creek figures in history as a 
Confederate victory. (See The Lyon Campaign," by Eugene F. 
Ware, pp. 324-339.) I have read somewhere this saying of Bona 
parte s: "An army of deer commanded by a lion is better than an 
army of lions commanded by a deer." While that statement is 
only figurative in its nature, it is, however, a strong epigrammatic 
expression of the fact that the commander of soldiers in battle 
should be, above all other things, a forcible, determined, and brave 
man. 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 273 



CHAPTER XXV. 



FRANKLIN, SUMMER OF 1865. MUSTERED OUT, SEPTEM 
BER 8, 1865. RECEIVE FINAL PAYMENT AT SPRING 
FIELD, ILLINOIS, SEPTEMBER 27, 1865. THE REGI 
MENT "BREAKS RANKS" FOREVER. 

Soldiering at Franklin, Tennessee, in May, June, July, and 
August, 1865, was simply of a picnic kind. The war was over in 
that region, and everything there was as quiet and peaceful as it 
was at home in Illinois. Picket guards were dispensed with, and 
the only guard duty required was a small detail for the colors at 
regimental headquarters, and a similar one over our commissary 
stores. However, it was deemed necessary for the health of the 
men to maintain company drills to a certain extent, but they were 
light and easy. Near the camp was a fine blue-grass pasture field, 
containing in a scattered, irregular form numerous large and mag 
nificent hard maples, and the drilling was done in this field. Capt. 
Warren was somewhat portly, and not fond of strenuous exercise 
anyhow, so all the drilling Co. D had at Franklin was conducted by 
myself. But I rather liked it. With the accession of those 83rd 
Illinois men, the old company was about as big and strong as it was 
at Camp Carrollton, and it looked fine. But, to tell the truth, it is 
highly probable that we put in fully as much time lying on the blue 
grass under the shade of those grand old maples as we did in com 
pany evolutions. 

Sometime during the course of the summer a middle aged 
widow lady named House began conducting a sort of private board 
ing establishment at her residence in the city, and Col. Nulton, Maj. 
Keeley, and several of the line officers, including myself, took our 
meals at this place during the remainder of our stay at Franklin. 
Among the boarders were two or three gentlemen also of the name 



274 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

of House, and who were brothers-in-law of our hostess. They had 
all served in Forrest s cavalry as commissioned officers, and were 
courteous and elegant gentlemen. We would all sit down together 
at the table of Mrs. House, with that lady at the head, and talk and 
laugh, and joke with each other, as if we had been comrades and 
friends all our lives. And yet, during the four years just preced 
ing, the Union and the Confederate soldiers thus mingled together 
in friendship and amity had been doing their very best to kill one 
another! But in our conversation we carefully avoided anything 
in the nature of political discussion about the war, and in general 
each side refrained from saying anything on that subject which 
might grate on the feelings of the other. 

On September 4th, 1865, the regiment left Franklin and went 
by rail to Nashville for the purpose of being mustered out of the 
service. There were some unavoidable delays connected with the 
business, and it was not officially consummated until September 
8th. In the forenoon of the following day we left Nashville on the 
cars, on the Louisville and Nashville railroad, for Springfield, 
Illinois, where we were to receive our final payment and certificates 
of discharge. 

Early on Sunday morning, September 10th, we crossed the 
Ohio river at Louisville, Kentucky, on a ferry boat, to Jefferson- 
ville, Indiana. This boat was provided with a railroad track ex 
tending from bow to stern, and so arranged that when the boat 
landed at either bank, the rails laid along the lower deck of the boat 
would closely connect with the railroad track on the land. This 
ferry transferred our train in sections, and thus obviated any 
necessity for the men to leave the cars. The ferrying process did 
not take long, and we were soon speeding through southern Indiana. 
As stated, it was Sunday, and a bright, beautiful autumn day. As 
I have hereinbefore mentioned, our train consisted of box cars, 
(except one coach for the commissioned officers,) and all the men 
who could find room had taken, from preference, seats on top of 
the cars. Much of southern Indiana is rugged and broken, and in 
1865 was wild, heavily timbered, and the most of the farm houses 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 275 

were of the backwoods class. We soon began to see little groups 
of the country people, in farm wagons, or on foot, making their 
way to Sunday school and church. Women, young girls, and chil 
dren predominated, all dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting" 
clothes. And how the women and girls cheered us, and waved their 
handkerchiefs! And didn t we yell! It was self-evident that we 
were in "God s Country" once more. These were the first demon 
strations of that kind the old regiment had seen since the girls of 
Monticello Seminary, in February, 1862, lined the fences by the road 
side and made similar manifestations of patriotism and good will. 

We arrived at Indianapolis about noon, there got off the cars 
and went in a body to a Soldiers Home close at hand, where we had 
a fine dinner; thence back to the old train, which thundered on the 
rest of the day and that night, arriving at Springfield the following 
day, the llth. Here we marched out to Camp Butler, near the city, 
and went into camp. 

And now another annoying delay occurred, this time being in 
the matter of our final payment. What the particular cause was 
I do not know; probably the paymasters were so busy right then 
that they couldn t get around to us. The most of us (that is, of 
the old, original regiment) were here within sixty or seventy miles 
of our homes, and to be compelled to just lie around and wait here 
at Camp Butler was rather trying. But the boys were patient, and 
on the whole endured the situation with commendable equanimity. 
"But the day it came at last," and in the forenoon of September 
27th we fell in line by companies, and each company in its turn 
marched to the paymaster s tent, near regimental headquarters. 
The roll of the company would be called in alphabetical order, and 
each man, as his name was called, would answer, and step forward 
to the paymaster s table. That officer would lay on the table be 
fore the man the sum of money he was entitled to, and with it his 
certificate of discharge from the army, duly signed by the proper 
officials. The closing of the hand of the soldier over that piece of 
paper was the final act in the drama that ended his career as a 
soldier of the Civil War, Now he was a civilian, free to come and 



276 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

go as he listed. Farewell to the morning drum-beats, taps, roll- 
calls, drills, marches, battles, and all the other incidents and events 
of a soldier s life. 

"The serried ranks, with flags displayed, 

The bugle s thrilling blast. 
The charge, the thund rous cannonade, 

The din and shout were past." 

The scattering-out process promptly began after we received 
our pay and discharges. I left Springfield early the following day, 
the 28th, on the Chicago, Alton, and St. Louis railroad, and went 
to Alton. Here I luckily found a teamster who was in the act of 
starting with his wagon and team to Jerseyville, and I rode with 
him to that place, arriving there about the middle of the afternoon. 
I now hunted diligently to find some farm wagon that might be 
going to the vicinity of home, but found none. While so engaged, 
to my surprise and great delight, I met the old Chaplain, B. B. 
Hamilton. As heretofore stated, he had resigned during the previ 
ous March and had been at home for some months. His greeting 
to me was in his old-fashioned style. "Son of Jeremiah!" he ex 
claimed, as he extended his hand, "why comest thou down hither? 
And with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness?" 
I promptly informed him, in effect, that my coming was regular 
and legitimate, and that the "few sheep" of the old regiment were 
forever through and done with a shepherd. Hamilton did not re 
side in Jerseyville, but had just arrived there from his home in 
Greene county, and, like me, was trying to find some farmer s con 
veyance to take him about five miles into the country to the home 
of an old friend. I ascertained that his route, as far as he went, 
was the same as mine, so I proposed that we should strike out on 
foot. But he didn t entertain the proposition with much enthusi 
asm. "Son of Jeremiah," said he, "you will find that a walk of nine 
miles" (the distance to my father s) "will be a great weariness to 
the flesh on this warm day." But I considered it a mere pleasure 
walk, and was determined to go, so he finally concluded to do like 
wise. I left my valise in the care of a Jerseyville merchant, and 
with no baggage except my sword and belt, we proceeded to "hit 



THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 277 

the dirt." I took off my coat, slung it over one shoulder, unsnapped 
my sword, with the scabbard, from the belt, and shouldered it also. 
Our walk was a p easant and most agreeable one, as we had much 
to talk about that was interesting to both. When we arrived at 
the mouth of the lane that led to the house of the Chaplain s friend, 
we shook hands and I bade him good-by, but fully expected to meet 
him many times later. But our paths in life diverged, and I never 
saw him again. 

I arrived at the little village of Otterville about sundown. It 
was a very small place in 1865. There was just one store, (which 
also contained the post-office,) a blacksmith shop, the old "Stone 
school house," a church, and perhaps a dozen or so private dwellings. 
There were no sidewalks, and I stalked up the middle of the one 
street the town afforded, with my sword poised on my shoulder, 
musket fashion, and feeling happy and proud. I looked eagerly 
around as I passed along, hoping to see some old friend. As I went 
by the store, a man who was seated therein on the counter leaned 
forward and looked at me, but said nothing. A little further up 
the street a big dog sprang off the porch of a house, ran out to the 
1 ttle gate in front, and standing on his hind legs with his fore paws 
on the palings, barked at me loudly and persistently, but I at 
tracted no further attention. Many of the regiments that were 
mustered out soon after the close of the war received at home 
gorgeous receptions. They marched under triumphal arches, decor 
ated with flags and garlands of flowers, while brass bands blared, 
and thousands of people cheered, and gave them a most enthusiastic 
"Welcome Home!" But the poor old 61st Illinois was among the 
late arrivals. The discharged soldiers were now numerous and 
common, and no longer a novelty. Personally I didn t care, rather 
leally preferred to come back home modestly and quietly, and with 
out any "fuss and leathers whatever. Still, I would have felt bet 
ter to have met at least one person as I passed through the little 
village who would have given me a hearty hand-shake, and said he 
was glad to see me home, safe from the war. But it s all right, for 
many such were met later. 



278 THE STORY OF A COMMON SOLDIER. 

I now had only two miles to go, and was soon at the dear old 
boyhood home. My folks were expecting me, so they were not 
taken by surprise. There was no "scene" when we met, nor any 
effusive display, but we all had a feeling of profound contentment 
and satisfaction which was too deep to be expressed by mere words. 

When I returned home I found that the farm work my father 
was then engaged in was cutting up and shocking corn. So, the 
morning after my arrival, September 29th, I doffed my uniform of 
lirst lieutenant, put on some of father s old clothes, armed myself 
with a corn knife, and proceeded to wage war on the standing corn. 
The feeling I had while engaged in this work was "sort of queer." 
It almost seemed, sometimes, as if I had been away only a day or 
two, and had just taken up the farm work where I had left off. 

Here this story will close. 

In conclusion I will say that in civil life people have been good 
to me. I have been honored with different positions of trust, im 
portance, and responsibility, and which I have reason to believe I 
filled to the satisfaction of the public. I am proud of the fact of 
having been deemed- worthy to fill those different places. But, 
while that is so, I will further say, in absolute sincerity, that to me 
my humble career as a soldier in the 61st Illinois during the War 
for the Union is the record that I prize the highest of all, and is the 
proudest recollection of my life. 

THE END. 



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